Photo credit: Dhahabu Kenya
Carrefour has made something of a history becoming the very first commercial outlet to introduce self-service checkout in Kenya. The French hyperstore, whose franchise is held by Dubai-based company Majid Al Futtaim group, introduced this service at its cavernous outlet at the infamous Westgate Mall in Nairobi in March. Much like those in Singapore, the self-service checkout terminal is equipped with a digital screen and a handheld barcode scanner. It accepts various types of cashless payment methods, such as M-Pesa, debit and credit cards, as well as redemption of Carrefour loyalty points. However, it has been met with mixed reactions. While some shoppers have welcomed it, others have reservations. Some have expressed concerns over job losses. Self-service terminals reduce the need for commercial establishments to hire too many checkout staff. A similar reaction was observed in South Africa in 2016, when labour unions in the country protested against the use of self-service till points at the Pick n Pay retail chain during a trial phase that was eventually cancelled. In March 2023, however, South African Shoprite Group launched a cashless and cashier-free shopping experience at its UNIQ standalone clothing store. A 2022 PwC survey found that many South African shoppers have a preference for self-service and click-and collect terminals. While, such a technology is commonplace in Singapore, it is not so in much of Africa.
The vast majority of African shoppers go to informal neighbourhood markets for their daily needs. Despite Nairobi having the largest modern retail space outside of South Africa, only 30% of retail in Kenya is formal (South Africa, however, stands out as a sole exception). If the self-service terminal proves to be successful at Westgate, Carrefour plans to roll them out across its 19 branches in Kenya. Since entering Kenya in 2016, Carrefour has become a notable retail presence, competing with established local supermarket chains such as Naivas and Quickmart.
A Forbes 2021 State of Self-Checkout Experiences report showed that 60% of consumers prefer self-checkout options over cashier-assisted ones; they also consider them faster than traditional checkouts. According to research firm Research and Markets, the global self-checkout in-store systems market size is expected to reach US$10.50bn by 2030.
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