This summer, Minuteman Food Mart opened its first store designed with self checkout machines posted alongside staffed registers. While the design update might have seemed innocuous to consumers, it was the result of careful experimentation and iteration by Minuteman as it looks to keep its front ends running as smoothly as possible.
“There was quite a bit of research and networking done prior to finalizing the design for our new store,” said Chris Postlewaite, senior director of retail for Campbell Oil, Minuteman’s parent company. “We will continue to learn and adapt and implement as [intentionally] as possible.
The new store — a rebuild that opened in July in Lumberton, North Carolina — isn’t the company’s first to employ the checkout technology.
Minuteman first explored self checkout at a location in Supply, North Carolina. Postlewaite said that location was a high-volume store that had three checkouts. The company replaced one of those with a self-checkout kiosk.
“It didn’t have much adoption and we didn’t execute it well,” Postlewaite said.
Minuteman took what it learned and created a front-end counter designed specifically for the self checkout machines. It retrofitted two other locations, with one of those stores getting one self checkout machine and the other getting two.
“Two units and counters designed for SCO definitely outperform the others,” Postlewaite said.
The areas designed for self-checkout have no queue area and feature the bag holders on top of the counter, rather than having them inset, Postlewaite said. They are also situated in the first checkout position, to make it easier for customers to access.
“The first store we installed out of the main traffic flow of the store and [it] wasn’t as easily seen,” he said.
While the Lumberton location sees one of the highest rates of cash payments of any store in the chain, about 30% of customers are using self checkout there, Postlewaite said.
He said the company views self-checkout machines as a “customer enhancement offering” and doesn’t try to force customers to use them. Minuteman uses Verifone Commander C-18’s, and the machines only accept credit.
Self checkout is becoming increasingly popular with c-store chains, with companies like Circle K, Parkland and Spinx all trying the technology. Experts said that self checkout allows customers more choice about how they interact with stores, can speed up throughput for busy locations and helps free up some workers to perform other tasks around thes tores.
On the flip side, some customers may be uncomfortable using them, and may see self checkout as a way to eliminate store jobs.
Whiteville, North Carolina-based Minuteman has more than 60 c-stores in North Carolina and South Carolina. Many locations also include QSRs like Little Caesars and Arby’s.