Whether cashiers go the way of the horse and buggy could hinge on an experiment Walmart is running in Arkansas.
The largest brick-and-mortar retailer in the United States is replacing its traditional, cashier-staffed checkouts with self-checkout registers at its store in Fayetteville, Ark., according to local news reports.
The aim is to speed up checkout lines while reducing contact, a Walmart spokesperson told KNWA/KFTA, with employees stationed nearby to help shoppers who run into any problems with the new system.
If the pilot is successful, Walmart may move ahead with a wider rollout of cashierless stores.
The Arkansas experiment comes as Walmart embarks on a major overhaul on how it interacts with its customers in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Walmart last month launched Walmart Pay, its touch-free payment system, while expanding the ability of customers to shop online by rolling a number of apps into one central Walmart app.
Walmart reported a 74 percent surge in online revenue during the first quarter of 2020 as coronavirus lockdown measures took hold across the country, with grocery items helping lead the charge. Walmart also saw a substantial 10 percent jump in comparable store sales over the same period in 2019.
Still, Walmart’s interest in self-checkout predates the coronavirus and mirrors a growing push by supermarket chains to augment, if not replace cashiers, with self-checkout stations.
In January, Walmart dispensed with cashiers at its Neighborhood Market store in Coral Way, Fla. This store of the future also offered a Check Out With Me program that allows shoppers to check out and pay through scanner-wielding employees around the store, as well as online grocery pickup and same-day delivery.
“By expanding self-checkout and adding Check Out With Me, associates will be on the sales floor where they can help customers — fast,” Patrick Shanks regional vice president of Walmart’s Neighborhood Market Operations, in a blog post.