Dutch retailer Albert Heijn has begun a pilot in ten of its stores, placing shelves of impulse items next to its self-checkouts. In doing so, the Ahold Delhaize operation is following an idea from Italian-Dutch confectionery and gum supplier Perfetti Van Melle.
The logic behind this move is the fact that with the increase in use of self-checkouts, sales of impulse products at regular tills have been in decline.
First of all, it is great to see that more and more shoppers embrace the self-checkouts at Albert Heijn. This is not yet the case everywhere. In many other European countries, we have seen shoppers standing in long queues at busy manned checkouts when the self-checkout areas remained empty. Albert Heijn’s success in this regard could be due to the fact that the retailer was amongst the European pioneers offering this service to its shoppers. Dutch customers seem to be less hesitant now when it comes to new technology as the entire market has always been one of the first-movers for retail technology.
New technology always means that traditional ways of promotion and merchandising have to be adapted accordingly. Self-checkouts in particular have been an irritating challenge for many impulse goods manufacturers. It is a good start to finally get suitable shelves in the self-checkout area in order to help drive impulse sales. However, it is a likely scenario that turnover for this section remains below that of traditional staffed tills. Queues and waiting times at self-checkouts are much shorter. It should at least be ensured that products are visible while shoppers scan their purchases. Albert Heijn has placed the shelves as close as possible to the self-checkouts, however, this in combination with shorter queues might also mean that there is way less space to display a broad variety of each supplier’s confectionery.
The situation is set to get even more challenging for the category due to the rapid growth of grocery e-commerce. Furthermore, there have been the first experiments with bricks and mortar stores that do not have a physical checkout at all. Amazon has tapped into this field with Amazon Go and now also Albert Heijn, as it tests the shelves to please Perfetti Van Melle, has such a concept in its pipeline. Starting next year, the new concept of cashier-less stores will be tested at its AH To Go stores in an attempt to make shopping at the convenience store even easier and faster. Albert Heijn has not provided a lot of background information. It is clear, however, that it is set to prioritise the demands of shoppers, which will increasingly make it more difficult to meet those of its manufacturers at the same time.
With contributions from Retail Analyst Frauke Vor dem Berge.