Asda is rolling out self-scan checkouts to 270 supermarkets as it looks to cut queue times by 15%.
The move, estimated to cost more than £20m, comes as it prepares to start trials of self-scan in its non food Living and George stores, as well as in the Essentials discount format.
It is also testing a mobile self-scanning gun that ­customers can use while they shop, plugging it in at a till point to pay and avoiding queuing altogether.
Asda customer service operations director Owen Hickey, who is overseeing the rollout and trials, said the checkouts were so far in 70 stores, with 85% having exceeded targets.
The self-scanning checkouts in its top-performing store in Cramlington, in the north east, are being used by 7,500 customers each week. &"If customers have a good experience they use it again. And there is always someone on hand to sort out any issues,&" said Hickey.
All stores will have at least four self-scan tills with one member of staff permanently assigned to help customers. Several stores are trialling eight terminals. &"It&'s not just about rushing people through; it&'s about giving people a good experience and freeing up colleagues to have a good chat with customers - which is what we&'re famous for.&"
The mobile self-scan service, similar to that previously used by Safeway, is being trialled at its Morley store in Yorkshire, with a decision due to be made this year as to roll out.
Hickey said there was little concern that allowing customers to scan and pack their own products would result in increased theft. &"We will do random bag checks, but 99.9% of people are honest and just want to get on and do the shopping.&"
Trials in Living, George and Essentials are expected to kick off later this year in what is a first in non food.
Hickey was adamant that the new initiatives were not a precursor to stores that would be staff-free.
&"There is no substitute for personal service. This actually allows real interaction with customers. It would be a sad day if stores became peopleless.&"
All staff have undergone training in order to troubleshoot problems, but Hickey said that feedback from stores had thrown up few system difficulties.
Rachel Barnes