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This Charlotte Harris Teeter is dropping traditional checkout lines

Harris Teeter’s uptown store on West Sixth Street
Harris Teeter’s uptown store on West Sixth Street kperalta@charlotteobserver.com

Harris Teeter is ditching traditional checkout lanes and transitioning to self-checkout only at its uptown location on West Sixth Street.

The grocer’s uptown store is 18,000 square feet, less than half the size of a traditional Harris Teeter. When the store gets busy, it’s often with urban residents or uptown professionals making small transactions. Moving to completely self check-out is a way Harris Teeter is looking to eliminate long lines at its registers, the grocer said.

The average transaction in the grocer’s uptown store is “significantly smaller than our traditional stores,” spokeswoman Danna Robinson said. The store is not eliminating any jobs by moving to self-checkout only, Robinson said.

“We believe this will allow us to provide better customer service by having more lanes available, so shoppers should be able to get in and out more quickly. This is our only store of this size, so (there are) no plans to move forward past this unique design,” Robinson said in an email.

The transition to self-checkout only is expected to be completed by mid-April, Robinson said. It’s unclear what will go into the space that the registers take up now — Robinson said she did not have details on the physical changes to the store.

HarrisTeeter_Uptown2.jpeg
Harris Teeter’s uptown store on West Sixth Street is transitioning to self-checkout only by mid-April Katherine Peralta kperalta@charlotteobserver.com

Automated checkout has grown increasingly popular among large retailers in the U.S., especially in the low-margin grocery-store industry. It’s a way retailers look to speed up transactions and ultimately to increase the number of sales at their stores.

Sales of self-checkout terminals soared 67 percent in 2016, marking a “breakout year” for the industry, according to a July 2017 report from RBR, a London firm that studies banking and retail automation. The surge was driven by “U.S. retailers in particular investing heavily in transforming their stores,” RBR said.

Throughout Charlotte, a number of retailers have self-checkout kiosks at their stores, including Target, CVS, Publix and Walmart. The uptown Harris Teeter is the only known retailer in the region to transition to completely self checkout, though.

Harris Teeter’s uptown location opened in 2003. The store was the only full-service grocer in uptown Charlotte until Whole Foods opened its store on Stonewall Street last summer.

Harris Teeter, headquartered in Matthews and owned by Kroger, is the No. 1 grocer in the Charlotte region by market share, according to Chain Store Guide, a sales-tracking firm.

The grocery wars started with Harris Teeter and Publix. It has gotten more competitive in recent years.

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As the retail and sports business reporter for the Observer, Katie Peralta covers everything from grocery-store competition in Charlotte to tax breaks for pro sports teams. She is a Chicago native and graduate of the University of Notre Dame.

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