By Len Lewis
It seems that once again we’re about to be embroiled in one of those age-old arguments about how far we can push customers into self-service and whether technology is a help or hindrance. Lidl, the no-frills deep discounter operated by the Schwarz Group in Germany—and a future player in the U.S. market—is testing a fully-automated tunnel checkout system at a store in Sweden which can identify products even without a barcode including produce. The Easyflow system, developed by Sweden-based ITAB, was also tested in the UK byMorrison’s late last year. For some, efficient self-checkout has always been something of the Holy Grail in retailing, reducing or eliminating labor costs, lowering equipment costs and generally speeding up the checkout process—maybe! On the other hand, can you over-automate the shopping environment by eliminating the human element. And how will customers react to running their groceries through something that looks like a cat-scanner? Interesting test. Stay tuned.