Aussie megastore Kmart has been forced to deny rumours it is scrapping manned checkouts to go all-self-service, even as retail tech charges in the opposite direction.
According to a 7 News report, disgruntled Kmart customers took to Facebook, saying they had been told Kmart would soon only offer self-service checkouts.
“Shame on Kmart,” one customer wrote.
“They are taking away jobs from people young and old who have already experienced hardship with the pandemic and the extraordinary weather event causing devastation to families and homes.”
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Another said the move is “pretty disappointing”, noting that not everyone enjoys the self-checkout experience.
Kmart has since confirmed that it “will always have” the option of manned checkouts available for customers who want them.
“We understand there are many different ways you can shop with us at Kmart and we assure all of our loyal customers that at every step, we will always have a Kmart team member available to support them,” a spokesperson told SmartCompany.
“We look forward to servicing all our customers in the many different ways they like to shop.”
This checkout debacle, however, comes as other retailers and tech providers modernise to the point of having no checkouts at all.
Budget supermarket Aldi, for example, has opened its first cashier-free store in London, following in the footsteps of Amazon’s pioneering Amazon Go stores.
In Australia, Queensland startup TAGR has beaten both to the punch, launching its own contactless and checkout-free shopping experience in a handful of small businesses throughout the state.
Founders Jaryd Terkelsen and Timothy James are gearing up to take their offering national by the end of the year, and are looking to go global soon after.
Elsewhere, Kepler Analytics raised $22 million in February for its in-store retail analytics tech, and Remi.ai closed a $1.44 million seed round for its tech forecasting demand and automating stock replenishment.
Speaking to SmartCompany last month, Terkelsen said we are seeing a shift in retail, and demand from consumers to blend the physical and digital shopping experiences.
Technologies like TAGR will not necessarily put sales assistants out of their jobs, he added. Rather, it is intended to free them up to provide better customer service.
“Our whole thing is getting staff out from behind the counters and actually on the floor building relationships and helping customers through their purchasing,” he said.
“It’s helping stores be more effective with their staff.”