Top 25 Retail Website / Global Retail Influencer


1280px Coles supermarket Self checkout

“(Self-Checkout) It’s facilitating errors, and in some cases, the steal.”Santiago Gallino, Associate Professor at the Wharton School

According to the latest NRF Security Survey, retail shrink represents $112.1 billion in losses, up nearly 20% from the previous year. Similar high shrink growth rates can be seen in other countries such as the UK where in the latest British Retail Consortium research, customer theft, doubled to just shy of £2 billion ($2.5 billion).

As I predicted many years ago, the problem of retail shrink is on a collision course with frictionless commerce consumer trends. This growing challenge actually bring new positive opportunities for to both retail and the loss prevention function.

ScreenHunter 835

The shrink challenging counter revolution taking place in the retail industry, led by younger generations, is frictionless commerce. “Over 50% of consumers will switch to a merchant with less friction in the shopping experience. And, 41% of all consumers will pay more for simple, fast and efficient shopping experiences.”

Specifically to self-checkout, the 2024 Digital Commerce Index found that 43% of consumers favor self-checkout when shopping in a grocery store. By age range, that preference is even more interesting with 55% of 18-29 years old favoring it, 30-44 at 51%, 45-60 at 40%, and those aged 60+ at only 26%.

The genie is out of the bottle in terms of increased frictionless commerce in all retail sectors. To understand its impact in the apparel industry, read one of my previous article titled “Let’s Get Phygital and Get the Future of Retail Party On.” This article explores deeper the challenges at retail shrink at self-checkout and the accelerated adoption trends of frictionless commerce.

Stealing at Your Local Self-Checkout

The pandemic accelerated negative trends that were already underway as it relates to retail crime. Below is a summary chart on this growing problem from my latest keynote presentation “The Disruptive Future of Retail.” Note the challenges for retailers when they increase friction by locking up products.

ScreenHunter 829

Self-checkout has introduced further challenges to retail theft. One study of retailers in the United States, UK, and other European countries found that companies with self-checkout lanes and apps had a loss rate of about 4%, more than double the industry average.

Interesting findings from a Lending Tree survey:

  • Almost all Americans (96%) have used self-checkout at one point or another. Most Americans say they enjoy it for speed and convenience, but 69% of users believe the machines contribute to shoplifting.
  • 79% of self-checkout users diligently ensure each item scans, 21% admit to accidentally taking an item — and guilt didn’t get the better of the 61% who kept it anyway.
  • 15% of self-checkout users confess to purposely stealing. While 60% of those who have stolen felt remorseful and 33% say they’ve been caught, 44% say they’ll likely do it again.
  • 31% of Gen Zers and 21% of millennials have purposely taken an item without scanning it.
  • The self-reported value of the stolen goods is $60, on average. Among those who plan to steal in the future, 46% say they’ll target items more expensive than anything else in their cart, while 37% will help themselves to essentials like food, water or health care goods.
  • While 23% of self-checkout users think they may have witnessed someone else steal from a machine, 45% say they did nothing about it.
  • Some consumers have been hit with false accusations, as 10% of self-checkout users say they’ve been wrongfully accused of taking something. That figure rises to 17% among Gen Zers and 14% among millennials.

The thieves themselves are getting better organized and online you can even find blogs that will teach you how to steal specifically at self-checkout. In the example that I have linked, you will learn about the ol’switcheroo, the pass-around, and the cut & run.

Above challenges have led multiple retailers to scale back their self-checkout implementations. Dollar General which had moved to exclusive self-checkout is the latest to reverse course on the technology. Walmart earlier this year pulled back starting in their New Mexico Stores, as is Shoprite in Delaware. Five Below is not getting rid of self-checkout, but is increasing staffed cashiers. Target has started limiting 10 items at self-checkout. Costco is adding more employees to monitor self-checkout.  

Self-Checkout and Frictionless Commerce are Here to Stay

In addition to consumer preferences for frictionless commerce, labor costs and labor shortages are driving self-service technology deployments. Not surprising, Statista listed cashiers as the highest projected change in employment between 2021 and 2031.


Your smartphone is already your everything self-service device. Younger generations are demanding greater innovation in retail, much of which is frictionless. Again, from my future of retail presentation, here is a peek of what they are demanding next.

ScreenHunter 832

Note the willingness of younger generations to give up more privacy in exchange for greater value in the shopping experience.

Examples abound on how retailers are leveraging technology in addressing both the retail self-service challenges and decreasing friction.

  • Amazon continues to experiment with their Go totally frictionless stores. However, new research suggests that cashier-free store are unlikely to break 1% of the global retail in-store market due to continued low demand.
  • Thousands of stores are deploying Artificial Intelligence (AI) technologies at self-checkout point-of-sale to detect and deter retail shrink.
  • Sam’s Club is replacing the practice of verifying receipts as shoppers exit the store with AI powered technology that visually scan the customer’s carts.
  • Carrefour has deployed 2400 smart carts which increase average basket size up to 75% than regular carts or self-checkout.

The self-checkout horse, ridden by frictionless commerce, is out of the gate and will win the consumer race.

ScreenHunter 833

Self-checkout still needs fine tuning as a strategy for greater consumer independence, both in stationary and mobile editions. Frictionless commerce is the next generation consumer shopping experience of choice. New technologies will be required to address the short to medium term challenge that is 'the Steal'. 

Contact Tony

Additional Subjects Related To This Post