Walmart, Other Retailers Scale Back Self-Checkout

Walmart is removing self-checkout from two stores, while Target and Dollar General have scaled back.

April 23, 2024

Retailers are pulling back, but not abandoning, self-checkout, Neil Saunders, managing director, retail, at GlobalData told CBS MoneyWatch.

Rising theft—part of what retailers call "shrink"—is the primary reason self-checkout is being ditched in some stores and restricted in others, according to Saunders. "They are trying to see how this plays a role in the future, but it's not going to be the same thing they've done for decades, where it's a free-for-all, and anyone could use it. There is a lot more caution," said Saunders.

According to CBS News, Walmart is removing self-checkout from two stores in Shrewsbury, Missouri, and Cleveland.

The company cited customer feedback as one of its reasons for removing self-checkout kiosks in Shrewsbury. "As part of our announced plans for additional investments and improvements to stores across the country, we're converting the self-checkout lanes at our 7437 Watson Road store in Shrewsbury, Missouri., to traditional checkout lanes," a Walmart spokesperson emailed CBS MoneyWatch. "We believe the change will improve the in-store shopping experience and give our associates the chance to provide more personalized and efficient service."

The announcement comes a month after Target announced that it was changing its self-checkout system. The company stated that self-checkout would be limited to 10 items or less, otherwise customers have to purchase items via a human cashier, reported NBC News.

One reason for the change, Target said, was the end of the pandemic, during which customers preferred a contactless option.

Though not mentioned in Target’s press release, NBC News noted that Target and other retailers have cited theft as a widespread issue. "I’m really pleased with the progress that we’ve seen," Target CEO Brian Cornell said in an interview with CNBC last fall, "but this isn’t a Target issue, this is a retail issue."

Last month, Dollar General also announced that it was pulling back on self-checkout—the dollar store chain stated that it will remove self-checkout registers from 300 stores that have the biggest issues with shrink, reported FoxBusiness.

Dollar General CEO Kelly Dilts said during its most recent earnings call that "year-over-year shrink headwinds continued to build during the year, increasing more than 100 basis points for both the fourth quarter and full year."

The company had also started converting self-checkout registers to assisted-checkout options in approximately 9,000 locations, Fox Business reported.

Last November, NACS Daily reported that retailers were taking a step back from self-checkout because of shrink.