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How to get shorter lines in your store

Published: 13. février 2016

Most people want their checkout experience to be as fast as possible. While retailers know queues are inevitable, new research* shows just how much of an impact a long line can have on purchase behaviour. The researchers discovered that the length of a queue – not whether that line is moving – was the most important factor for consumers. Sometimes customers even leave the store without completing their purchases due to long checkout queues. Here are some tips on how to speed up the checkouts and avoid long queues.

A well-known truth among retailers is the queuing theory that one line served by several cashiers means shorter queuing times than several lines served by one cashier each. However, customers pay more attention to how many people are standing in line and do not factor in the number of cashiers on duty, this research shows. So, as the checkout is the last opportunity for a retailer to make a positive impression on at customer, it is important to consider how the customer experiences the queue time. Moreover, as a retailer, you know that seconds saved on each transaction at the cashier has an impact on the bottom line.


Self-checkout is often faster when the customer only has just a few items to scan. The self-checkout also has a psychological effect because as long as the customer is taking an active part, it seems to go faster, especially when there are lines at the other checkouts. However, people avoid this option due to habit, user insecurities and/or scanning difficulties. Therefore, make sure to always have staff at self-checkouts that can instruct and help the customers.

Cash management

With a cash management system, every cash purchase will take less time. The cashier does not have to count the money from the customer nor count the change to give back. The cash management system does that automatically. With no need for counting money, the cashier can save about five seconds on each transaction.

Moreover, with cash management, the cashier is not responsible for the money or for checking in and out the tills. This means that all employees can serve the checkouts. With more people able to serve the checkouts it is easy to reallocate staff, who are for instance are filling the shelves, to the check-outs when it is needed. By having flexibility in the number of open checkouts one can avoid queuing.

Fast card transactions

Visa has released a new software for credit card readers which allows the chip card to be inserted and removed while an order is still being rung up by a cashier. That will reduce the amount of time that the card must be in the reader. According to Visa Inc., the new reader will save 18 seconds per payment.
Also, many modern credit card readers can be set not to need pin code for amounts up to 20-30 euros. To skip the PIN will save about 10-15 seconds per transaction.

New bar code scanners

The latest omnidirectional scanners allow cashiers to check items faster because it does not matter in which direction the bar code is positioned. The old type of scanners requires the bar code be turned in a specific direction because they only emit a single line. The cashier will save much time with faster scanning.

Scanner cashier training

It can be a good thing to consider investing in cashier training that not only focuses on operating the point-of-sale terminal but also on the scanning technique. If the cashiers learn to use smooth and steady scanning motions, the checkout will pass faster, and cashiers who are properly trained to use the scanner are more comfortable and productive while working.

Hybrid check outs

An upcoming trend is a checkout counter that can switch between being a self-checkout and a manned checkout. That means the store can have several checkouts open during off-peak hours. With a self-checkout, the queues that usually occur with only one open checkout can be avoided.


Self-scanning can be a good option to consider. The customer scans each product barcode in the store with a handset and then put the items directly in their shopping bags. When the customer comes to the checkout, it is only the payment that remains. The time that will be saved on each customer at the checkout makes it possible to serve more customers.

There will always be a certain amount of queuing, but awareness of the problem and efforts of solving it will produce results. Altogether a few seconds on each and every process will soon turn into minutes and hours of saved queueing time.