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The Dallas Morning News reports that "Walmart is testing an all-self-checkout Supercenter in Plano at one of its biggest local stores and one where growing families can easily pile high a grocery cart.  It’s calling the process 'hosted checkout' because employees are standing by to help if customers need it."

According to the story, "Walmart opened the first all-self-checkout supercenter in Fayetteville, Ark., last summer, saying it wanted to challenge the assumption that the old ways are always better. There are now other stores in the test, but the Plano Supercenter, which quietly went to all-self-checkout in late April, is the only one in Dallas-Fort Worth."

The News goes on:  "Kroger has been testing all-self-checkout at a small urban store on Cedar Springs in Dallas, but the sight of no cashier lanes in a store as big as Walmart’s Plano Supercenter stocked with more than 120,000 items and surrounded by suburban rooftops is daunting.

"Target, Kroger and Costco stores have all adopted the evolved self-checkout process with assistance but still offer the option to go through a regular cashier-staffed, conveyor-belted line."

KC's View:

Two things.

One, this is a reflection of not just current realities about store-level labor shortages, but also the long-term desire of retailers to drive labor costs out of the system.  Self-checkout, and checkout-free stores, are going to be a growing response to these trends.

There is a Whole Foods store in Greenwich, Connecticut, that has added some self-checkout lanes … and when a format that has always been service-centric moves in that direction, you know things are changing.

Two, if you happen to be an independent retailer competing with these big guys, it seems to me that taking the opposite approach - offering not just service, but people who create a sense of connection to shoppers - can be a key differentiator.  That's not easy, though, because you're dealing with the same labor shortages.  But one of the first things you have to do is avoid making the driving down of labor costs a high priority.