Space at the till area is at a premium as it’s the only part of the store customers are guaranteed to visit.
When they make that journey they expect to see a friendly member of staff in full view waiting to help them. Not a pair of eyes peering over the latest new product launch perched precariously on top of the newest merchandising kit.
Many manufacturers of counter-top equipment have been striving to give retailers more space on their counters by making their products multifunctional and more space-efficient.
In March, National Lottery operator Camelot rolled out a new-look scratchcard dispenser to more than 25,000 retail outlets following sales increases in 5,000 stores that had trialled the new unit.
Camelot had originally commissioned display unit manufacturers ID Magasin to research the behaviour of customers in order to come up with the best design to boost sales.
Camelot customer marketing controller Chris Connor says: “ID Magasin studied the whole purchasing process, from arrival at the store to completion of the transaction. Based on its findings, it developed a design concept which has stimulated sales of scratchcards by improving in-store presentation and communication, as well as simplifying the selection process.”
The National Lottery operator is also able to track its sales store-by-store and monitor the impact of all its pos initiatives from launch onward. Connor says: “This enables us to identify with absolute certainty the commercial advantage attributable to the new fixtures.”
In the early days, retailers were happy to give over counter space to the lottery machine, the energy prepay terminal or mobile top-up equipment, safe in the knowledge that offering more services meant encouraging more traffic into the store. Now, as technology seems to be getting smaller everywhere, retailers are looking for payment terminals with a small footprint but which provide the same number and level of services as a bigger machine.”
Companies such as Coinstar and Integrex have developed e-top-up kiosks that take pressure away from the till area and leave space for advertising of new products. However, the new counter-top payment terminal from Alphyra PAYzone has been created to allow the retailer to keep the facility at the till.
Launched in early 2005, the new terminals are being rolled out across the company’s network of 24,000 UK retailers, including many independent c-store outlets.
The terminal, which is Chip & PIN-enabled, takes up just over half the size of the company’s previous payment terminal and delivers services such as utility payments, mobile phone top-ups, international calling e-vouchers and local authority payment schemes.
Alphyra PAYzone managing director Rupert Lowery says: “Our retail partners will benefit from the new terminal’s enhanced security, small footprint, ergonomic design and improved reliability, and it will make transactions faster and easier for customers.
“A new curly cord will also make it more portable around the till area, while its small footprint will allow more flow and space for other till-based operations and products.”
With the essentials taken care of, Musgrave Budgens Londis regional development director Keith Warburton believes space should then be put aside for the latest new product launches. However, the time given to them on the counter must be strictly controlled.
“New products are essential to bring custom into the store, and the till area is the obvious place to house them. However, you must be strict in what you place on the counter. Don’t try to put every new confectionery and savoury launch near the till because they’ll stack up, clog the flow and make the counter look unattractive.
“You know your customers: pick the launches you think will be most attractive to them and then give that product a maximum of three weeks on the counter. After that, the new launch will have lost its effectiveness and should be replaced.”
According to Warburton, any good till area should flow and be easily accessible for customers and staff. “A counter area should be a well-oiled and smoothly-flowing machine, not just for customers but for staff as well.
“Staff need to get customers paying for their goods and out of the store as quickly as possible, while at the same time the counter must have impulse products located on and around it to collect last-minute sales.”
According to a survey by Qm Group, which specialises in queue management, 17% of shoppers’ valuable time is spent queueing, with us Brits joining an average of 11.2 queues a week.
This means any product positioned on the counter-top needs to justify its position, be easily accessible and able to fit in with other essential till-based services.
Warburton explains: “If we’re talking about an average four-foot counter top, you’re looking at two modern scanning tills, a lottery terminal, a scratchcard dispenser, a chewing gum stand and a utilities payment terminal. These are the essentials consumers expect to see and use.” Warburton admits that getting counter-top displays to suit the needs of all parties - retailers, suppliers and, most importantly, customers - is a hard balancing act but one that can be achieved.
He continues: “More manufacturers are now concentrating on getting merchandising units and payment terminals to fit as perfectly as possible in-store, so if you get the balance right there should be every opportunity to have a tidy and welcoming counter.”