SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

July 23, 2012

Are cashiers and cash registers obsolete?

By Daryl Nelson
ConsumerAffairs.com

— If you've noticed lately, cashiers and cash registers are becoming scarce in retail locations.

With the increasing use of kiosks and digital checkout scanners, stores are using technology to speed up the shopping experience and make paying for items easier.

The latest retailer to do so is J.C. Penney, which just announced it will be getting rid of its cash registers and replacing them with mobile checkout devices and self-pay kiosks.

J.C. Penney CEO Ron Johnson said within the next year, he would like to see all cash registers disappear, and also said the new process will be extremely user friendly.

"My goal by the end of 2013 is to eliminate the cash route," he said. "You'll be able to check out anywhere anytime, from anyone including yourself, because we're going to roll out self-checkout to our stores next year. It's really cool and it's really easy because it's RFID-based. You don't have to scan an item. You just throw it down and there's the price."

Need to spruce up

PhotoJohnson, who helped Apple and Target grow into retail prominence, also said that brick-and-mortar stores still need to make continuous efforts to spruce up the shopping experience and make it better for consumers.

As the popularity of online shopping continues to grow, many retailers have put large amounts of effort into keeping up with the digital times by creating apps and adding more product selection to online stores.

But Johnson says as the physical and digital shopping worlds continue to merge, stores should still pay plenty of attention to their offline shopping experience, not just their online offerings.

"If I had to pick today, would I rather be an online-only retailer trying to compete ten years from now, or a physical retailer trying to compete ten years from now?" he asked the audience at the Fortune Brainstorm Tech conference. "Knowing that the digital and physical worlds come together, I'd take the physical retailer in a heartbeat."

Apple has also adopted this philosophy and eliminated cash registers in all of its stores.

Instead of forming pesky lines and dealing with slow cashiers, Apple sales people now come directly to you and complete transactions with a mobile point-of-sale check-out.

Visa gets into the game

Visa has also gotten into the game of trying to eliminate both the cashier and the cash register.

In April of this year the credit card company announced its partnership with Square Inc., the company that created a small device that attaches to iPads, iPhones, and Androids through the headjack, and allows credit card payments to be excepted anywhere. The company was founded by Jack Dorsey, who also created Twitter.

Square, Inc. has enabled all-cash-businesses like street vendors to have the option of accepting at least two types of payments, thus creating more earning potential.

The tiny device which resembles a flattened cube is also perfect for the everyday person who needs to accept a one-time payment for a reimbursement, or the selling of a personal item. The device is under $10, making it affordable for most consumers who want to give it a whirl.

People can also use Square to make payments at everyday stops like coffee shops and convenience stores, making the need for cash registers, and eventually credit cards much smaller, which is more or less the same concept Johnson wants to bring to J.C. Penney.

Early in the year Penny announced it was changing its pricing structure by replacing its big sale days for an everyday low price system, but the plan hasn't seemed to catch on. The company has experienced a net loss of $163 million in the first quarter.

But Johnson says the loss is just a matter of the buying public getting used to the new order of the store.

"Transformation takes time," he said. We're in a marathon here. It's going to be four years, and we've got a very precise vision of how we're going to get there, and we're going to stick to our plan."

Whether Johnson will be able to bring JCPenney out of its slump remains to be seen, but many retail experts believe making the shopping experience easier and faster is a step in the right direction.

Story provided by ConsumerAffairs.