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Walmart: Conflicting Reports Show Self-Checkout Is Work in Progress

Walmart

Depending on where you looked Wednesday (March 6), Walmart is scaling back self-checkout, limiting it to subscribers — or it’s a store-by-store decision.

As reported through the past several days, and across a variety of media sites and social media conduits, the commerce giant is changing its approach to self-checkout, and making that option available solely to Walmart+ subscribers and Spark delivery drivers. USA Today reported on Wednesday that the company is testing different checkout options. “Is Walmart getting rid of self-checkout? Not necessarily,” the news outlet reported.

There have been social media postings, as seen here on X from January, that some stores have opened the self-checkout options only when full service functions are crowded by long lines. Theft is an issue, according to the posts.

The company’s own site has a post that signals hosted checkout and other options are still available in-store. And as reported here at the end of last year, buy now, pay later (BNPL) provider Affirm has expanded its long-standing partnership with Walmart, adding BNPL to self-checkout kiosks at more than 4,500 Walmart stores in the U.S.

Reached for comment by PYMNTS on Wednesday, a Walmart spokesperson said: “From time to time, our stores adjust the use of staffed checkouts and self-checkouts. For example, a store might start or end the day with staffed checkouts. As the number of shoppers and associate staffing increases, these stores open self-checkout registers to manage the increased customer flow. This process isn’t new.”

The spokesperson added: “During these times of limited access, some stores are designating select self-checkout stations for Walmart+ customers using our Scan and Go service and Spark drivers for quicker access and delivery services. This decision is intended to better manage checkout availability.”

Consumers Like the Option

Beyond the reports flying across the digital channels, it’s clear that self-checkout remains a work in progress. And while Walmart, Target and other retailers have noted that theft has been on the upswing (and that self-checkout has at least some role here), there are still efforts underway to put more control of the last moments of the transaction in consumers’ hands.

During Walmart’s most recent conference call with analysts to discuss earnings, CEO Doug McMillon noted that “at Sam’s Club U.S., we’re rolling out new exit technology that enables our members to use scan and go to just walk out after completing their transaction on their phone, further enhancing their membership.”

PYMNTS Intelligence noted last year that more than half of consumers expect to see self-service kiosks in place and available when they shop in brick-and-mortar settings, with 70% of executives saying such features can determine consumers’ loyalty.

The research further found that more than 66% of retailers are shifting resources toward more convenient payment and checkout options. The data shows that more than three-quarters of consumers are more willing to patronize a retailer if scan-and-go is available. A full two-thirds of consumers surveyed said speed was a key reason to use self-checkout, and nearly half said that they’d used the technology to avoid waiting in line. More than a third of individuals say they use self-service checkout regularly.