According to a 2012 survey by mobile commerce company Aislebuyer, 52 percent of the U.S. shoppers questioned hate long lines at stores. In fact, the study found that some people will even leave a retailer and purchase what they need elsewhere if they feel that they’re not being dealt with quickly enough. A supermarket in Scotland, however, has specially created a checkout lane designed for customers to take their time.
And the Scottish store’s decision seems like an unusual one on the surface. At the very least, it doesn’t appear all that convenient to the consumer to be hanging around for longer. And convenience is certainly a key concern for many U.S. shoppers, some of whom have taken to buying online.
In fact, a 2017 study by Avato has reported that, out of the more than 2,000 Americans surveyed, 58 percent choose to use the internet to shop because it is easier than heading to a brick-and-mortar store. Furthermore, 54 percent believe that there’s simply a better choice of products on the web.
And it’s not necessarily the case that Brits like being in line, either. For instance, 2015 research from Box Technologies and Intel discovered that, from the 2,000 British people they asked, around 70 percent of them wouldn’t frequent a store again if they felt that they had spent too much time waiting to pay for their goods there.
So, the supermarket in Forres, Scotland, with its so-called “relaxed checkout,” appears to be a bit of an anomaly. But there’s a very good reason why the store has a lane that may go at a more leisurely pace. And it’s all to do with actually helping its customers rather than hindering them.
Developed with help from charity Alzheimer Scotland, the relaxed checkout at the Forres branch of the British chain Tesco is meant to make vulnerable shoppers feel more comfortable. In particular, it’s intended to take the pressure off them when they come to pay for their groceries. And, as a result, that may mean that the line runs considerably slower than others in the shop.
What’s more, it was an employee at the store, Kerry Speed, who first came up with the relaxed lane idea. Speed is one of Tesco’s “community champions,” tasked with improving the grocery chain’s relationships with those local to its stores; there are 500 such ambassadors for the brand across the U.K.
And Speed would explain how she came up with the scheme in a 2017 interview with the BBC. She said, “It was highlighted to me that people living with dementia can feel under pressure when they reach the checkout. It struck me that this could be true for others as well. We want them to be confident they can shop at their own pace.”
Speaking to The Sun, Speed added, “Whether a customer has a medical condition which requires them to take things a little easier, or they value an extra couple of minutes to chat to their checkout adviser, we want them to be confident.”
The relaxed checkout itself, meanwhile, was initially opened on two mornings a week. The employees running it, moreover, had been prepared for the task by Alzheimer Scotland. In particular, these cashiers were taught how to identify customers who might need extra help; they were also briefed to work at a pace that best fits those using the lane.
Dementia sufferers, for example, can have problems with figuring out how much money they need to pay for their items. Likewise, they may occasionally need a cashier to talk to them more slowly than usual. The special lane, however, provides a space where those with such needs can be given the assistance they require.
But just to make sure that other shoppers don’t join the line at the checkout and get annoyed at the speed at which it progresses, there is a sign there that informs customers that there may be a wait to be served. Additionally, it encourages people to take their time when they get to the cashier.
And while talking to The Sun about the relaxed checkout, Wendy Menzies of Alzheimer Scotland said, “We have supported the local Tesco team at Forres to help raise awareness of dementia and the steps they can take to help make a difference to the lives of people with the condition in the Forres area.”
Menzies continued, “During our discussions with staff, we have looked at ways to create a dementia-friendly environment. We welcome this new pilot scheme which will help people with dementia to feel confident in continuing to shop independently in their local community for longer.”
Perhaps, then, the relaxed checkout concept will eventually spread further afield. Certainly, dementia is a serious issue in the U.S., too; over five million Americans currently have Alzheimer’s disease, for instance. The Alzheimer Association has also estimated that caring for those with dementia cost the U.S. $259 billion in 2017.
The good news is that dementia rates in the U.S. appear to be declining. That’s according to a 2017-published study from researchers at the University of Michigan, the University of Southern California and the University of Washington. They found that the number of Americans aged 65 or over with dementia had decreased between 2000 and 2012. Furthermore, those who developed the disease did so later in life than had been previously measured.
The reason for the decline in dementia rates for over-65s has not been conclusively established, though. But, according to the researchers of the 2017 study, its findings prop up one theory in particular. Simply put, it’s thought that there may be a link between educational achievement and the eventual development of dementia. Those with higher levels of academic achievement, therefore, may have less of a risk of cognitive decline when older.
For those currently living with dementia in the U.S., however, relaxed checkouts may be a boon. And the Alzheimer’s Association itself has said that it would embrace this kind of innovation for American stores, as it supports any initiative that will improve the lives of dementia sufferers.
Furthermore, around 60 percent of Americans with dementia are currently in their own communities rather than in specialist group homes. Anything that helps these individuals in their day-to-day lives, then, is to be welcomed.
And the Alzheimer’s Association’s Ruth Drew has emphasized that yet more companies can easily follow in the Tesco store’s lead. “With appropriate training, individuals and businesses can adopt simple strategies to interact more effectively with people living with Alzheimer’s,” Drew told TODAY in 2017. She added, “Even small changes can go a long ways toward helping people in the early stage of dementia.”