Retailers Removing Cash Registers and Cashiers

Retailers wanting to eliminating cashiers and cash registers with new technological solutions will still have to face the fact that many consumers today still prefer to use cash.

Ron Johnson became the newest CEO at giant retailer J.C. Penny after leaving his job as the head of Apple's retail business sector last November. While at Apple, Brown was considered as the mastermind behind the success of Apple's plan to operate mostly cash-register free stores. Now that he is at J.C. Penny, it looks like the new job will mirror his old job as he has announced that J.C. Penney will also start to say goodbye to cash registers, checkout counters and cashiers by 2014.

Ron Johnson has already made some news while at J.C. Penny with his controversial, yet unsuccessful attempts to re-energize the checkout experience in the retailer's chain's stores by eliminating most of its consumer-attracting sales and coupons. If Brown's strategy works out, cashiers and cash registers at many other retailers could face a fate similar to that of pay phones and typewriters that have nearly disappeared from the planet. Brown's plan includes eliminating cashiers, cash registers and checkout counters, and replacing them with new technological solutions that will instead employ WiFi networks, mobile checkout counters, radio frequency identification, technology tracking systems for merchandise, and a host of self-checkout options. Johnson was recently quoted at a Fortune Brainstorm Tech conference saying "About 10% of all the money we spend, half a billion dollars a year, goes to checkout transactions, and the money saved by replacing checkout stations with new technology could be invested in improving customer service.

Brown's strategy plays well with the many economists who already believe the retail industry is already nearing the early stages of the end of the widespread use of cash registers, and that technologies like iPad, RIFD, and WiFi, represent the future of all retail businesses. Many industry observers have predicted that while some retailers will do away with cash registers altogether, many others will probably begin a gradual phase-out and continue to utilize cash registers only for larger purchases. The fate of the cashiers may be less dramatic though, as it is unlikely that sales associates will disappear altogether, but they are likely to see their roles evolve toward more customer service focused responsibilities. However, one last hurdle that Apple, J.C. Penny and any other major retailers trying to dump cash registers will still have to jump over is the fact that a large percentage of their customers still prefer to use good old cash.

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