self checkout
Sean Cate
Sean Cate
November 17, 2023 ·  3 min read

UK Supermarket Ditches Its Self-Checkouts in Favor of Staff

In a surprising move, the northern UK supermarket chain Booths has announced a significant shift in its service system. Bid farewell to self-checkout tills as Booths, a prominent supermarket brand operating across Lancashire, Cumbria, Yorkshire, and Cheshire, is steering away from its reliance on automated checkouts in most of its stores. Let’s delve into the reasons behind this substantial change and its potential impact on the shopping experience.

Customer-Centric Decision

Booths, often referred to as the ‘northern Waitrose,’ is making headlines by dismantling most of its self-service tills and re-adopting manned checkouts.1 The managing director, Nigel Murray, disclosed that customer feedback was a driving force behind this decision. Shoppers voiced concerns about the inefficiency, unreliability, and impersonal nature of self-scanning machines.2

The supermarket chain prides itself on its warm and personalized customer service. In response to mounting dissatisfaction with self-service tills, Booths aims to pivot back to the human touch. This move underscores the importance of meaningful interactions between staff and customers in enhancing the shopping experience.

Reaction and Implications of Removing Self-Checkout

Booths’ decision to remove self-service checkouts has triggered conversations within the retail industry. The move has raised discussions about the role of automated systems versus human-operated services. The British Independent Retailers Association emphasized the risks associated with self-service tills, citing concerns about retail theft.

This drastic shift in checkout methods might spark a reconsideration among other supermarkets. It’s a bold move, challenging the trend that has seen an increasing number of retailers adopting self-service machines in recent years. The decision is also a testament to the value Booths places on their customer-centric approach.

An Industry-Wide Debate

While Booths’ shift may signal a renewed focus on personal service, it also highlights the ongoing debate about the efficiency and desirability of self-checkout systems. The move away from self-service tills could redefine the narrative around the role of technology in modern retail.

Booths’ decision stands out in an era where technology often dictates the shopping experience. This shift might spark further discussions within the industry regarding the balance between automation and personal touch in retail.

Booths’ stance against self-service tills might resonate with customers who prefer the warmth and assistance of staffed checkouts. However, it also challenges the convenience and speed associated with automated systems.

Booths’ move away from self-service checkouts indicates a fundamental shift in their approach, prioritizing customers’ preferences and emphasizing personalized service over automated convenience. The decision reflects the supermarket’s commitment to its founding values of excellent service.

Self-Checkout Reflection

While Booths stands out as the first major supermarket chain to significantly reduce self-service tills, it could trigger a broader reconsideration of the role of technology in the retail landscape. It prompts an industry-wide reflection on the ideal balance between technology and personalized service in creating a satisfactory shopping experience.

The shift at Booths represents a significant departure from the self-checkout trend that has gained momentum in recent years. Source 2 underlines the rising concerns about the impersonal nature and efficiency of self-service systems within the retail sector.

While Booths’ move may seem unique at present, it could set off a broader industry reevaluation. This decision might stimulate discussions about the role of technology in modern retail and the optimal blend of automation and personal service.

Booths’ departure from self-service tills prompts a critical reassessment of the retail landscape. It challenges the conventional wisdom surrounding the predominance of automated systems, emphasizing the pivotal role of human interaction in shaping customer experiences.

Keep Reading: Walmart Has Something Some Might Say is ‘Better’ Than Self-Checkout Machines. What Do You Think?


  1. Booths removes almost all self-service checkouts and puts staff back behind tills as experts say move will cut shoplifting: ‘We listen to our customers – they want to speak to a real human’.” Daily Mail. Mark Duell. November 10, 2023.
  2. Supermarket chain axes almost all self-service tills after backlash from shoppers.” Independent. Holly Evans. November 2023.