Target is changing its self-checkout policy at all of its stores, while Dollar General is closing self-checkout lanes at many locations.

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To use Target’s self-checkout lanes, you must limit your cart to 10 items or fewer.

The Minneapolis-based retailer is making some changes at checkout after recently testing limits on the number of items customers can have in self-checkout lanes. Express self-checkout lanes with a limit of 10 items or fewer will roll out at most of Target’s nearly 2,000 stores nationwide on Sunday, March 17, the company said in an announcement Thursday.

“While hours may vary based on shopping needs, Express Self-Checkout will be available during the busiest shopping hours,” Target said in the announcement.

Stores will also open more checkouts with associates to serve shoppers “who have more in their Target carts, need a helping hand or just want to connect with our team to help them get on their way faster,” the company said .

At each location, “store leaders have the flexibility to open more lanes staffed by team members and set self-check times that work for their store,” Target said.

“Checkout is one of the most important times of the Target run, and we know that a fast, easy experience – whether it’s at the self-checkout or at the lanes manned by our friendly team members – is critical to getting guests through quickly. to help you get started,” the company said in the announcement.

Walmart store closures: Three more were reportedly added to the list of shuttered stores in 2024

Why is Target changing its self-checkout lines?

In October, Target spokesperson Brian Harper-Tibaldo told USA TODAY that the retailer had begun experimenting with self-checkout lanes limited to 10 items or fewer at select locations “to reduce wait times and better understand guest preferences .”

Earlier this month, he said pilot testing was continuing at select stores to assess “their impact on the overall guest experience.”

The retailer’s testing of Express Self-Checkout lanes for customers with 10 items or fewer found the process was “twice as fast in our pilot stores,” the company said. “By having the option to self-check out for a quick ride, or a traditional, staffed line when their cart is full, guests surveyed told us the overall checkout experience was also better.”

Dollar General, other stores are looking at changes to self-checkout

Several companies have been experimenting with changes to their self-checkout strategies lately.

Walmart has had store managers try out different staffing options — including removing self-checkout at some stores — to see what works best at their locations. And Costco began cracking down on checking membership cards at self-checkouts. One reason: an increase in ‘shrinkage’ due to theft or products being sold for less than the actual price.

Dollar General CEO Todd Vasos said it would remove the self-checkout feature from more than 300 of its stores, where most of the “shrinkage” is happening. The retailer would also begin converting some or all self-checkout lines at about 9,000 stores to assisted checkout lines, he said Thursday during its fourth-quarter 2023 earnings call with investors.

At self-checkout stores, customers are limited to five items or fewer, Vasos said.

Dollar General made the decision after a company specializing in artificial intelligence reviewed its transactions, Vasos said, according to a transcript from S&P Global Market Intelligence.

“What we could see was how much shrinkage – real shrinkage that we’ve had, both purposeful shrinkage unfortunately and unintentional shrinkage due to items not being scanned properly or thinking they had scanned it and not doing so,” he said.

Many retailers have expanded self-checkout during the pandemic to make it easier for customers and staff to avoid close contact – and to cope with the lack of staff. Now retailers are looking for new models that “reflect the need to control losses and ensure a reasonably acceptable customer experience,” Adrian Beck, professor emeritus at the Department of Criminology at the University of Leicester in Britain, told USA this week TODAY.

He authored the 2022 Global Study on Self-Checkout report, which found that two-thirds (66%) of the 93 retailers in the study (29 were from North America) said they believed self-checkout losses were an increasingly became a bigger problem in their companies.

“As the research shows, being understaffed can lead to increasing customer frustration, which in turn can lead to incidents of violence and verbal abuse,” Beck said. “Retailers have therefore had to develop a more nuanced business model.”

Follow Mike Snider on X and Threads: @mikesnider & microphone snider.

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