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  • Writer's pictureThe San Juan Daily Star

Self-checkout is here to stay, study shows

Forty-eight percent of the consumers surveyed stated that they use self checkout at island stores.

By The Star Staff

The self checkout system is an alternative that has come to stay among Puerto Rican consumers, according to the findings of Consumer Survey 2024, a study commissioned by the Chamber of Food Marketing, Industry and Distribution (MIDA by its Spanish acronym).

MIDA President Joeyleen Quiñones said that almost half of the island consumers surveyed said they use “self checkout” when paying for their purchases in stores. According to the research that the entity carries out every year, 48% of the consumers surveyed stated that they use the tool where the client carries out the collection and payment transaction themselves. Almost a third of those who said they use self checkout said they use it whenever the store has it available.

Consumer Survey Committee Chairman Richard Valdés noted that the integration of the technology to facilitate and speed up the purchasing process has been key for the physical store to have maintained and recovered the consumer’s preference for in-store buying, following the increase in online shopping during the COVID-19 pandemic. In this sense, the study reflects that 86% of consumers prefer physical purchases versus 14% online. For example, Valdés cited that more than half of consumers who resort to using the self checkout ATM do so for convenience, either when they are in a hurry (33%) or when there is a long line at the cash registers (30%).

“During the pandemic years, the consumer became accustomed to not standing in line due to social distancing and in those years internalized the use of technology as part of their daily purchases,” said Félix Aponte, first vice president of MIDA at the board of directors level, who will assume the presidency of the entity on June 15. “Therefore, we have to continue innovating and be attentive to that consumer’s needs, but we must also implement it with the necessary precautions to avoid its misuse. This is what happens with all technology, you have to embrace innovation with your eyes open and with due precautions.” According to another study commissioned by MIDA in December 2023, Portrait of the Food Industry, 56% of supermarket owners interviewed generally expressed an increase in theft in their stores, although not necessarily related to self checkout.

Consumer budgets under pressure

This year, average monthly spending on food purchases remained similar to 2023 spending, with $452 per month on food purchases in 2024 versus $453 in the previous year (see related story on page 2). MIDA Executive Vice President Manuel Reyes Alfonso said the stabilization of average monthly spending, despite inflationary increases, is related to various factors, but is worrying because it points to a possible reduction in the sale of units or adjustments in the combination of products that are purchased.

“Although percentage increases in prices are lower than what we saw after the pandemic, inflation is a challenge for everyone,” he said. “The problem is when we evaluate that this loss in purchasing power due to inflation is combined with the fact that consumers seem to have exhausted the excess savings they achieved during the pandemic and we see an increase in personal debt and a reduction in imports.”

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