Franchisees of the Southern Co-op have successfully introduced self-serve checkouts in a number of Welcome-branded stores.

Around 14 units have been installed across three stores so far, including two c-stores in Southampton run by franchisee Richard Inglis.

The new self-serve tills, which are designed to improve customer experience, is a result of a partnership between the Southern Co-op and epos supplier VME.

Following the installation of self-serve tills in two of his sites, Richard Inglis is also planning to install the new checkouts in his third Southampton store, Frobisher House.

Richard said: “Everything has gone really well so far. We’ve installed the tills in two of our stores and they have been particularity well received in our student halls site. We used to have four regular cashier tills but we’ve now cut that down to two and installed five credit card only self-serve checkouts.

“Before we installed the units, over 60% of our transactions were made by debit and credit cards. Now that number has increased to over 75% in just the three weeks that customers have been using the tills.”

Customer reaction to the new checkouts has been overwhelmingly positive, with 53% of Richard’s shoppers now using the self-service tills - and the system has also been well received by staff.

“We now only have one person manning the regular tills and all five of the self-serve checkouts, which has made a massive difference to our store,” Richard explained. “We’ve already changed the rotas and cut down on some hours and staff have also been less stressed as they have more time to do promotions and deliveries.

“The tills work with our VME epos system and they’ve been working to get their self-serve system sorted. Obviously, we had to order all the hardware and make changes to our till point but it has all worked out well. It took around eight weeks to put the technology in place and we installed all the tills and refitted everything in one night!”

The changes to Richard’s in-store till area cost around £15,000, with additional fixtures and sockets being added to make space for each of the £10,000 self serve checkouts. He admitted that the project was a large, but essential, investment.

He said: ”I think some people are scared of self service tills and the effect it will have on their store but to me it’s a bit like when chiller doors were first introduced. Everyone said they would be a barrier to purchasing, which didn’t happen, and I think the same goes for self-serve checkouts. 

“For us, it’s not just about serving customer more quickly and cutting down on queue times, it also means we carry less cash on site so we are less of a target for robbery. As a business, it’s also about being more efficient with staff, which obviously has a huge effect on my bottom line.”

Richard added: “If the tills mean we can make savings on holiday hours and the national living wage, then it has to be a good thing. We’re still a community store but we have to make sure that we are here to serve the community in the best way possible.”