You May Never Have to Wait in a Supermarket Checkout Line Again

Source: Noel Hendrickson / Getty Images

The supermarket checkout line — with its grocery-cart traffic jams and checkers who never seem to know the PLU code for jalapeños — may soon be a thing of the past.

The international real estate services firm CBRE predicts that within a decade checkout lines will be replaced by such innovations as carts with built-in barcode scanners and credit-card swipers; mobile payment apps; weight sensors and cameras; and merchandise-scanning robots, according to a new “Food in Demand” report.

The new technology will free up space for such revenue-generating functions as click-and-collect services — a hybrid e-commerce model that lets consumers order items online, then pick them up at a brick-and-mortar location. It will also obviously allow stores to cut staff. (As it is, only two grocery chains — Trader Joe’s and H-E-B — are ranked among America’s best companies to work for.)

The CBRE study also foresees an increasing emphasis on prepared meals; the growth of smaller convenience-store grocery outlets under major chain corporate umbrellas; and collaboration between supermarkets and local restaurants, fitness operations, and other nontraditional partners.

“The store will remain central to the grocery industry,” says Melina Cordero, the company’s global head of retail research, “but its format and function will be reshaped by multiple factors over the coming years.”

Some major chains have already begun improving in-store technology and developing such services as curbside pickup, adds CBRE. Such upgrades might help made some supermarkets become among the 20 most popular stores in America (currently, only Kroger makes the list).