Updated Mar 14, 2024 - Business

Exclusive: Target making a big change to self-checkout

Shopper stands in front of a self-checkout register at a Target store with Target shopping bag, gift cards next to register

Self-checkout is changing at Target stores starting March 17. Photo: Bing Guan/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Target is rolling out a big change to self-checkout that limits the number of items shoppers can buy at the registers, the retailer shared exclusively with Axios.

Why it matters: Shoppers and retailers have a love-hate relationship with self-checkout. The self-service registers are sometimes difficult for consumers to use and enable theft.

Driving the news: Starting Sunday, March 17, Target stores nationwide will move to "express self-checkout" with a limit of 10 items or fewer at the self-service registers, the company tells Axios.

  • This should speed up checkout lines, Target said. Stores also will open "more traditional lanes" that are staffed for shoppers who have more items.

The big picture: Target's change comes as some retailers pull back on self-checkout, which they heavily invested in during the pandemic.

  • Walmart told Axios its stores "adjust the use of staffed checkouts and self-checkouts" from time to time and stores might start or end a day with staffed checkouts.
  • Dollar General officials said Thursday that they are pulling out self-checkout stands in 300 stores that have the highest levels of shoplifting, CNN reported. Thousands of stores will limit the number of items shoppers can purchase at self-checkout to five items or less, the company said.

Zoom in: Target said store leaders will be able to set self-checkout hours and have the flexibility to open more staffed lanes.

  • The express checkout will be "available during the busiest shopping times," Target said in a blog post shared first with Axios.
  • "By having the option to pick self-checkout for a quick trip, or a traditional, staffed lane when their cart is full, guests who were surveyed told us the overall checkout experience was better too," Target said.

Between the lines: Self-checkout was designed to speed up checkout for shoppers and save retailers money on labor costs.

  • 43% of consumers prefer self-checkout to traditional checkout, according to an NCR Voyix survey of 1,133 Americans.
  • Self-checkout is more popular with younger shoppers with 53% of shoppers ages 18–44 favoring it, the survey found.

Yes, but: A LendingTree survey of 2,000 U.S. consumers found that 15% of self-checkout users admitted to purposely stealing an item.

Editor's note: This story was updated to include changes Dollar General is making with self-checkout.

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