SUPERMARKET and convenience store chains are introducing an automated cash payment system in an effort to cut down on the number of cashiers needed.
Cold Storage, FairPrice, Cheers and Sheng Siong have begun installing the machines while Giant and 7-Eleven will follow suit later this year. The plan is to install the system progressively over the next few years at the 800-plus outlets they operate in total.
The systems, which take the place of traditional cash tills, vary across the different supermarkets.
At Cold Storage, cashiers collect notes and coins from customers and feed them into slots similar to those on vending machines. The machine will then spit out change.
At FairPrice and Cheers, customers feed the money into the slots.
Sheng Siong shoppers get their items scanned and bagged before heading to a kiosk nearby to pay by cash or card. Staff are on hand to help those who have difficulties.
The new system also allows cashiers to feed the day's takings into a backend counting machine.
It will also be built into all self-checkout kiosks at FairPrice and Cold Storage, which currently accept only card payment.
Cold Storage launched its system at its 12,000 sq ft Sime Darby Centre outlet yesterday. The 51-store chain's chief executive officer Victor Chia said the store, which opened in June, has just nine cashiers while a store of the same size without self-checkout kiosks and the new system would require 25.
Mr Chia said the new system counts the cash instantly, a job which would otherwise take cashiers four to five hours.
Previously, each cashier was responsible for money in their register, which was then counted and handed to the cashier taking over the next shift. Staff may also be asked to fork out for any discrepancy at the end of the day. "Now cashiers need not do anything, just sign off and go home," said Mr Chia.
The system should also benefit customers as new registers can be opened when queues get long.
Installing the system at Sime Darby Centre cost the chain about $250,000, though part of it was funded by enterprise agency Spring Singapore.
Sime Darby Cold Storage customer Victor Teoh, a doctor, said: "It's easy and convenient. There are also step-by-step instructions."
Cold Storage plans to launch the system at two other stores in the next few months.
Two FairPrice outlets and five Cheers stores are also using the new cash machines to help ease their manpower shortage.
FairPrice has 10,000 staff at its 290 FairPrice and Cheers outlets but is short of 500 workers, mainly sales assistants and cashiers. Sheng Siong said the machines save customers 15 to 30 seconds at the checkout.
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