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Retail technology: concepts come to life?

Aug 18th 2011, 10:00


Retail technology: concepts come to life?

Electronic Shelf Label technology has, for some time, been a concept that could clearly deliver significant benefits and cost reductions to retailers but costs have made that investment case just a little too risky for most. That scenario has begun to change as a number of retailers have now adopted this technology. As more units are sold the price per unit will drop and, as that happens, the use of ESLs will become the standard.

It’s not only the reductions in time and labour that makes ESLs attractive, but also the added benefits of accuracy, better promotional flexibility and the opportunity to implement time sensitive pricing that excites retailers. Any project that saves money and offers the opportunity to increase margins will attract attention.

So, what is the next big thing in in-store technology? For my money, self service checkout has got to be high on the list of priorities. It’s a concept that will appear far off in the distance only to hit consumers like a freight train. I know there are issues around theft and dishonesty but they will get ironed out.

Imagine a store with 16 till points, only 6 have cashiers and 10 are self service tunnels. The tunnel is a conveyer belt that has multi-directional scanners; shoppers simply place the item at one end and it gets scanned as it moves through to the other end where it’s collected. Payment is then made by card. Some retailers may even offer a discount for using the self-service checkout.

The technology is improving all the time, costs are still high but once European or American retailers adopt the practice those costs will drop very quickly. It will not be long before South African retailers begin to pilot the concept, when that happens I have no doubt that unions and governments will be fighting very hard to legislate against the practice.

This editorial is also on our blog.

Craig Ballantyne and Wendy Smith

P.S. Look out for the first Retail Technology Forum in Africa event, which will be held in Cape Town in September 2011. Find out more information about it on our website here.

Please feel free to make comments or raise new issues by emailing the editor

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