In an age where self-service checkouts have become the norm in supermarkets, one UK grocery chain is making a bold move by returning to fully-staffed checkouts. Booths, an upmarket supermarket chain with 27 stores across Northern England in Lancashire, Cumbria, Yorkshire, and Cheshire, has decided to bid farewell to most of its self-service tills, prioritizing human interaction and customer service over automation.
Booths, often dubbed the “northern Waitrose” due to its reputation for quality and customer service, has taken a unique stance on this matter. The decision to remove self-service checkouts was prompted by customer feedback and a desire to provide a more personal shopping experience. Booths’ managing director, Nigel Murray, emphasized their commitment to customer satisfaction, stating, “Our customers have told us this over time, that the self-scan machines that we’ve got in our stores can be slow, unreliable, and impersonal.”
The move to reintroduce human cashiers into most Booths stores aligns with the supermarket’s values of offering “high levels of warm, personal care.” In an era where automation and artificial intelligence have become increasingly prevalent in the retail sector, Booths is taking a stand in favor of “actual intelligence” provided by human cashiers.
Booths’ decision has sparked a spirited debate about the benefits and drawbacks of self-service checkouts, especially in the context of the ongoing issue of shoplifting. The British Independent Retailers Association (BIRA) has pointed out that the current level of retail theft poses a significant challenge for retailers relying on self-service tills, which can become an expensive risk. This raises questions about the effectiveness of automated checkout systems in deterring theft and the overall cost-benefit analysis for retailers.
The move to return to fully-staffed checkouts isn’t a one-size-fits-all decision for Booths, as they plan to maintain self-service tills in just two of their stores—those located in the Lake District at Keswick and Windermere. These exceptions are based on the stores’ high levels of customer traffic, where the convenience of self-service may still be preferred.
Booths, with its rich history dating back to 1847, stands as a testament to the enduring value of personal customer service. In a retail landscape dominated by convenience and automation, the supermarket chain is placing an emphasis on the human touch, acknowledging the importance of face-to-face interactions in fostering customer loyalty.
As the grocery industry continues to evolve, Booths’ decision to prioritize “actual intelligence” over artificial intelligence may serve as a reminder of the enduring value of human connections in the world of retail. While self-service technology offers convenience, it’s crucial to strike a balance between automation and personal service to meet the diverse needs and preferences of shoppers.
The reintroduction of human cashiers in Booths stores reflects a commitment to delivering a shopping experience that goes beyond mere transactions. It’s a statement about the enduring importance of customer relationships and the belief that a warm, personal touch can set a retailer apart in a crowded marketplace.
Ultimately, Booths’ decision to return to fully-staffed checkouts is a bold move that challenges the status quo of automated shopping. It highlights the significance of real human interactions and customer-centric values in an era where technology often takes center stage. As the retail landscape continues to evolve, Booths stands as a testament to the enduring appeal of exceptional customer service and the belief that “actual intelligence” can make a significant difference in the world of shopping.