Customers in line at a Smart & Final store wait to be summoned to the next available register.
A socially distant inspired checkout process being put in place at Smart & Final stores borrows heavily from an approach nonfood retailers put in place long before COVID-19.
Smart & Final said it expects to have a new line-queuing checkout process installed in all of its 255 stores by later this month. The concept involves a single line feeding multiple checkstands and is uncommon among food retailers, however Smart & Final saw it as a way to achieve social distancing as well as get the next customer to the quickest lane to check out.
The retailer plans to place a digital screen at the front of the line that lets customers know where and when a new register is available. A swing gate will create a barrier where the line will start, and customers can wait until the monitor and flashing lights call them forward. The digital screen will also display other messages, such as reminders about social distancing guidelines, according to Smart & Final.
This approach has been employed in other sectors of retail for many years, both as a means to expedite the checkout process for customers end optimally allocate labor based on the rate of sales. Off price retailers such as Ross Stores, Home Goods and Nordstrom Rack are among those who use the single line approach as do Best Buy and Office Depot.
Commerce, Calif.-based Smart & Final operates 255 locations, including larger-format stores, Smart & Final Extra!, which combine a warehouse-store format with traditional grocery offerings. All of the chain’s stores sell groceries and household essentials in both bulk and individual sizes without a membership fee. The company is No. 57 on The PG 100, Progressive Grocer's list of the top food retailers in North America.