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Waitrose confirms it won't follow Booths' return to staffed tills

Waitrose WON’T follow Booths’ return to staffed tills: Retailer vows its self-checkouts are here to stay because ‘customers appreciate choice’ – which do YOU prefer?

  • Booths axes almost all self-checkouts which are ‘slow, unreliable and impersonal’
  • But sources at Waitrose say they are ‘really popular’ and will not be removed
  • * Had a bad experience with self checkouts? Please email: [email protected]

Waitrose confirmed today that it will not follow Booths in returning to fully-staffed checkouts, after the northern supermarket axed most of its self-service tills.

Booths, which has been dubbed the ‘northern Waitrose’, said it chose to scrap the machines because it feels customers get a better experience at manned checkouts.

But sources at Waitrose, which has had self-checkouts for 12 years, said unmanned tills continued to be ‘really popular’ with shoppers and would not be removed.

Other retail industry sources also told MailOnline that they had not heard of any other supermarkets or retailers suggesting they would get rid of self-checkouts.

The move by Booths, which was founded in 1847, has provoked much debate on the benefits of self-checkouts as retailers continue to battle a shoplifting epidemic.

The British Independent Retailers Association said there could be a ‘reality check with the current level of retail theft and self-service tills becoming an expensive risk’.

* Had a bad experience with self checkouts? Please email: [email protected]

Self-service checkout machines at a Waitrose store in Granary Square in London (file picture)

Sources at Waitrose said that unmanned tills continued to be ‘really popular’ with shoppers

All but two Booths stores will put staff back on the tills following the decision (file image)

The majority of Booths supermarkets are in Lancashire, including this one in Poulton-le-Fylde

A Waitrose spokeswoman told MailOnline today: ‘Our customers appreciate choice; some want the speed of a self-checkout, while others prefer a personal service. 


As Booths puts workers back behind the tills, do YOU prefer self-service or staff checkouts?

As Booths puts workers back behind the tills, do YOU prefer self-service or staff checkouts?

Now share your opinion

‘Unlike some retailers, all our branches continue to have staffed checkouts, which is really important to our customers.’

MailOnline contacted every major UK supermarket to ask for their stance following the decision by Booths, and only Waitrose has responded so far.

Booths – which has 27 stores in the North across Lancashire, Cumbria, Yorkshire and Cheshire – is the first in the UK to go back to fully-staffed checkouts.

The upmarket firm said it has been finding the machines to be ‘slow, unreliable and impersonal’ and decided that ‘rather than artificial intelligence , we’re going for actual intelligence’.

Staff at the chain added that they wanted to ensure customers were served by people with ‘high levels of warm, personal care’.

All but two Booths stores will put staff back on the tills – with the exceptions being in the Lake District at Keswick and Windermere which can become very busy at times.

Booths managing director Nigel Murray said staff at the northern chain ‘like to talk to people’

All but two stores will put staff back on the tills – with an exception being this one in Keswick

Booths managing director Nigel Murray told BBC Radio Lancashire today: ‘Our customers have told us this over time, that the self-scan machines that we’ve got in our stores they can be slow, they can be unreliable, they’re obviously impersonal.

READ MORE Booths removes almost all self-service checkouts and puts staff back behind tills as experts say move will cut shoplifting

‘We stock quite a lot of loose items – fruit and veg and bakery – and as soon as you go to a self-scan with those you’ve got to get a visual verification on them, and some customers don’t know one different apple versus another for example.’

He said there was ‘all sorts of fussing about with that’ and then as soon as someone puts alcohol in their basket, an employee has to come over to perform an age check.

Mr Murray continued: ‘We are a business that prides ourselves on the high standards and high levels of warm, personal care.

‘We like to talk to people and we’re really proud that we’re moving largely to a place where our customers are served by people, by human beings, so rather than artificial intelligence, we’re going for actual intelligence.’

The programme also heard from a customer called Sue from Leyland in the county, who said: ‘I think shopping is a boring, mundane thing to do and I think if staff are there chatting to you, it just makes it better.’

A shopper at Booths, which was founded in 1847 and now has 27 stores across the North

A display of freshly baked artisan bread at the Booths supermarket in Ripon, North Yorkshire

The British Independent Retailers Association described the move as a ‘very interesting development’.

Full list of Booths stores that will no longer have self-checkouts 


  • Barrowford, Nelson
  • Burscough, Ormskirk
  • Carnforth
  • Chorley
  • Clitheroe
  • Fulwood, Preston
  • Garstang
  • Hesketh Bank, Preston
  • Longridge, Preston
  • Longton, Preston
  • Lytham
  • Lytham St Annes
  • Penwortham, Preston
  • Poulton-le-Fylde
  • Scotforth, Lancaster


  • Kendal
  • Kirkby Lonsdale
  • Milnthorpe
  • Penrith
  • Ulverston


  • Ilkley
  • Ripon
  • Settle


  • Hale Barns, Altrincham
  • Knutsford

Two Booths stores will continue to have self-checkouts, both in Cumbria:

  • Keswick
  • Windermere 

Its chief executive Andrew Goodacre told MailOnline today: ‘Independent retailers would never use self-service tills, preferring instead to deliver personal service at the till.

‘Furthermore, indie retailers view the checkout as an extra opportunity to sell and it seems that Booths are now following their example.

‘There may also be a reality check with the current level of retail theft and self-service tills becoming an expensive risk.’

The British Retail Consortium’s 2023 Crime Survey put the scale of annual retail theft in Britain at £953million, despite more than £700million in crime prevention spending by retailers.

This meant the total cost of retail crime stood at £1.76billion for the year to April.

It also found that incidents of violence and abuse towards retail colleagues had almost doubled on pre-pandemic levels to 867 incidents every day in 2021/22.

A separate survey of the organisation’s members in 2023 found that levels of shoplifting in ten major UK cities had risen by an average of 27 per cent.

Robert Downes, development manager for the Federation of Small Businesses in Manchester, tweeted: ‘Well done Booths supermarkets for axing the hated self-checkout.

‘A welcome return to staff checkouts and proper customer service – not to mention a deterrent to casual shoplifting. Now let’s see if others follow suit?’

He added: ‘Levels of shoplifting may spell the end for self-checkouts. Whatever they save on staff costs is surely eroded by thieving – which honest folk pay for through higher prices.’

Harry Rose, editor of Which? magazine, tweeted: ‘The main benefit is time-saving – even with the errors. Without them you get stuck behind people doing the weekly shop when all you’re buying is milk. And in convenience stores without them you often have queues snaking around the store.

He added: ‘Aldi is good now – in stores where they’ve introduced self-checkouts they still have two or three staffed checkouts open as well. And I can’t recall having any errors with the tech.’

Mr Rose also said: ‘The fundamental flaw is bagging areas that judge products based on weight but that can’t handle light items, so you know you’ll inevitably have to call the human whenever you’re trying to buy, say, paracetamol or basil.’

Booths has become Britain’s first supermarket chain to return to fully-staffed checkouts

A display of the self-service cheese counter at the Booths store in Ripon, North Yorkshire

The self-service Olive Bar at the Booths supermarket in Ripon, North Yorkshire 

A spokesperson for Booths said it had taken the decision as a model where ‘colleagues serve customers’ offered the best user experience. 

And they said its shoppers overwhelmingly supported the move – with feedback showing they preferred a ‘more personalised service’.

READ MORE Sainsbury’s forced to apologise to vegans over jokey Christmas card showing chilly farmyard swines mistakenly being excited about becoming pigs in blankets


The Booths spokesperson said: ‘We believe colleagues serving customers delivers a better customer experience and therefore we have taken the decision to remove self-checkouts in the majority of our stores.

‘We have based this not only on what we feel is the right thing to do but also having received feedback from our customers, who prefer a more personalised service.

‘Since 1847, the Booths founding philosophy is to ‘sell the best goods available, in attractive stores, staffed with first class assistants’.

‘Delighting customers with our warm Northern welcome is part of our DNA and we continue to invest in our people to ensure we remain true to that ethos.

‘We will retain self checkouts in two of our stores in the Lake District in order to meet the needs of our customers during very busy periods.’ 

It marks a shift away from the trend towards self-checkouts amid warnings last month that the popularity of self-checkout machines in supermarkets has caused a decline in the number of shop floor vacancies.

The overall number of checkout-related openings has fallen from 2,748 in last October to 2,020 this month, according to job search engine Adzuna.

It added that checkout roles previously accounted for less than 58 per cent of supermarket jobs in October 2016, while last month they only accounted for 15 per cent.

In the same period the number of self-checkout machines in supermarkets has increased from 53,000 to around 80,000 in the last five years, according to analytics platform RBR Data Services.

The figures will cause fears among job searchers in the run up to Christmas, who often count on supermarkets taking on extra staff to cope with festive shoppers.

* Had a bad experience with self checkouts? Please email: [email protected]

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