Techno-grocer: Giant puts customers in control
Harris Teeter has online grocery shopping at Hollymead Towne Center and at its new Crozet location. Food Lion recently renovated all its stores, going upscale with extensive organic sections. Now Giant's looking to trump competitors with a new service dubbed "Scan-It" that could virtually eliminate check-out lines by letting customers have their groceries tallied and bagged before they ever reach the check-out.
"It made the shopping experience more fun and makes grocery shopping easier with a child," says Pantops Giant patron Katie Hartwell, who discovered the Scan-It service shortly after it launched at Pantops on April 21. (It's been available at Seminole Square since December.)
How does it work? A rack of the purple scanners sits inside each entrance. Customers stock up on bags supplied alongside the scanners (or bring their own), enter their Giant bonus card number or a phone number into the scanner, then carry on with shopping, scanning each item before placing it in a bag in the cart. The scanners offer discounts along the way based either on previous shopping habits or on the aisle a customer is currently shopping. A running tally is kept inside the handheld gizmo, which Hartwell notes helped keep her inside her budget. Special scales print barcodes for produce.
One of the main benefits of Scan-It: check-out time is slashed, even compared to the usually short self-check-out lines available at all major grocery stores. At check-out, a shopper using Scan-It does one final scan of an oversized bar code posted above the touchscreen at each one of the self-check-out lines. The total due appears on the screen, the customer pays and leaves immediately, since the groceries are already bagged.
"We estimate it takes about three minutes to check out," says Giant employee Wanda Maupin.
Hartwell calls it "efficient," but wonders if it might encourage less up-standing shoppers to bag a few groceries they haven't actually scanned.
"We haven't seen an increase in shoplifting," says Roger Gatewood, front end manager of the Seminole Square store where Scan-It's been in place for five months. The store does conduct random audits, during which a shopper's receipt is matched to the items in their bags after check-out, says Gatewood.
Another question Gatewood's been asked: are the scanners a cheap replacement for human employees?
Cost-cutting "is not what it's about," he says. The store determines how many cashiers are needed based on sales, he says. Since the self-scanners were implemented, sales have gone up, says Gatewood, and cashiers have added hours to their schedules and are now on-hand to assist customers as needed.
"One of the goals is for customers to get in and get out on time," says Gatewood, "to not have to worry about standing in line."