By Tokyo correspondent Um Soo-ah
Recently, Japan is coping with a labor shortage by introducing self-checkout machines at stores clothing stores followed by convenience stores.
On Tuesday, customers were checking themselves out at a GU store in Ikebukuro, Tokyo.
It was 3 pm with a few customers around. And it took only five minutes to buy clothes. When you place the clothes you want to buy on the counter, the self-checkout machine will automatically display the number of the items and price on the screen.
Customers can pay with either cash or credit as a payment option. Once you receive the receipt, you can put the purchased clothes in a bag and leave. You can actually buy clothes without saying a word.
Customers save time instead of service while clerks can offer other services, such as putting clothes in order or finding the right products for customers.
There is no mistake in counting the number of items or displaying price information. The attached RFID (radio frequency identification) tags are attached that allow unmanned machines calculate the number and amount of total items accurately.
Every product has an IC tag, thinner than 1 mm, on its package. It's like a system that public libraries use which allows people lend several books simultaneously.
It's more convenient and accurate than current self-checkout machines, which read the prices of products one by one using barcodes and sometimes even make you type the amount directly because it cannot recognize the barcode.
GU is targeting young men and women in their 20s and 30s. The apparel company has introduced such machines faster than other brands in hopes that its young customers will use self-checkout system more freely.
Since a self-checkout machine is not something common in apparel stores, detailed information on how to use it is provided in big letters.
In addition, clerks are around to help those who have difficulty using the machine.
Last month, the five major convenience stores in Japan, including Seven-Eleven Japan Co., Family Mart Co., Lawson Inc., Ministop Co. and NewDays, announced they would install this new unmanned system to their stores by 2025.
Fuji Chimera Research Institute predicted tht the use of RFID would increase at around 129.2 billion yen by 2020, about 50% increase compared to last year, the Nihon Keizai Shimbun (better known as Nikkei) reported Tuesday.