The rise of self-checkout machines has led to a steep decline in vacancies for supermarket jobs, a new report has stated.
According to figures from job search engine Adzuna, the number of vacancies involving checkout staff has fallen sharply as the machines have been rolled out, accounting for under 15 per cent of supermarket jobs in October 2023 compared to 58 per cent in October 2016.
The overall number of checkout-related vacancies fell from 2,748 last October to 2,020 this month, typically the busiest month of the year for hiring, Adzuna said – a fall of 26 per cent.
Meanwhile, the number of self-checkout machines in supermarkets has soared from 53,000 to around 80,000 in the last five years, according to analytics platform RBR Data Services.
Roughly eight in 10 sales in a typical supermarket now go through self-checkouts.
A survey by the Institute of Customer Service found that customer service is at its lowest since 2015, although the retail sector still fares better than most. Jo Causon, CEO of the Institute, suggested the rise of self-service technology could be to blame.
“The mass implementation of technology like self-checkouts could be a factor in the decrease in satisfaction, although for those customers that say they don’t like self-service there will be many more customers which are very happy with it,” she told The Telegraph.
Causon stressed the need for balance between technology and face-to-face staff to accommodate different customer needs.
“What is clear is that supermarkets need to ensure they are testing new technology, investing in their service offering and employees, and ensuring that staff are available if needed by a customer.”
Meanwhile, supermarkets maintain the shift to self-checkout machines has been driven by customer preference.
In June, Tesco chief executive Ken Murphy told shareholders: “We genuinely believe, at the end of the day, it provides a better customer experience.”
Morrisons said the switch to self-checkouts allowed its stores to use the space in other ways, such as to shelve more stock while Waitrose said that “unlike some retailers” all its branches would continue to have manned checkouts alongside self-service machines.