Saturday, 5 January 2008

Self Service

My first proper blog of 2008. It is something I have been looking / noticing for a while now. for those who do not know our (Hoffi's) offices, they are based in Cardiff Bay. We moved there after a year or so working from our bedrooms. This was really due to the benefits of working there, but anyway back to the point.

Last year the  Tesco Express in the bay brought in a number of self-service tills. The store itself is very small, and if you are slightly late at lunch time you will be lucky to get any type of sandwich or wrap. Even if you do get anything then you have to wait an age to get served. So for this very reason the tills were introduced. Now I realise that self-service tills are nothing new, it did however start me thinking. Predominantly about if people are wanting to do more of the leg work themselves?

If we carry on with the idea of the shop. Historically it was the corner shop, items were placed behind a counter and a customer would go in, tell the shopkeeper what they wanted and the shopkeeper would get it ready for you. You would then pay for the goods or it would go on a slate. As shops became busier and stocked more items there was a change and the advent of the supermarket now brought aisles and the customer was now given a basket or trolley where they had to now search out the products they wanted. Once they had found what they wanted they would go to the check out, place the items on a conveyor belt and then they would be scanned by a cashier. As they beeped through the items you would frantically try and place them into plastic bags as the items slewed down the chromed ramp. 

Now with the self service till we are now doing the job lot. 'Hunting', scanning, packing and paying. What is really interesting about this is there is another side to the modern way. And that is internet shopping. It is now possible to go on the internet, order what you want and get it delivered to your door. While both of these concepts initially seem different in one way. i.e. physically. In another they are almost identical. Both options can be almost devoid of customer interaction with any member of staff of the supermarket in question.

What it brings to question is there going to be some kind of backlash? As people we are inherently social beings, the local shop gave a chance not only to pick up groceries but gossip about what was happening to June and George down the road. With this in mind and also people now slowly beginning to demand to know about how, where, when the products they are buying got to the supermarket. Convenience is still king which is bore out by new finds published in the Guardian that convenience meal consumption has gone up 300% in the last 10 years. Once again though there is a smaller contradictory change. 60% of people now claim they prepare at least one meal everyday from scratch, this is a 25% increase over the last four years. The report comes from several government agencies for the Cabinet Office, with the report commenting "Food is now a key part of our leisure time". 

Could it be that shop while you socially network be a possible future? Tesco turns it's web portal into more than just an online shop but also accommodates a place to chat while you shop just as you would before? Perhaps another strand could be the idea of the local markets either run in the flesh or virtually, bringing people together who want to discuss produce and origins of products. 

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