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Self-service checkouts leave elderly shoppers feeling 'intimidated'

The rise of self-service checkouts has left many older shoppers feeling isolated, a charity says (NurPhoto/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

Millions of elderly shoppers find self-service supermarket checkouts “intimidating” and “unfriendly”.

Without someone to talk to at the tills, they find their shopping experience “miserable”, a charity reports.

And, while the days of Arkwright and his ‘Open All Hours’ corner shop may be long gone, catering for elderly shoppers by having “in-store conversationalists” could actually benefit the retailer, argues housing charity Anchor.

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Its report, in association with the Centre for Future Studies consultancy group, claims stores could generate an additional £11.6bn in sales by making the shopping experience better for older consumers.

It says: “In a high-tech retail world, there is a need for high human touch too, especially with the older generations who may feel isolated by the technology.”

The days of Ronnie Barker’s Open All Hours corner shop are long gone (PA Images via Getty Images)

Jane Ashcroft, chief executive of Anchor, says: “Going shopping is something most of us take for granted and yet many thousands of older people feel excluded from our high streets.

“This is an issue not to be overlooked, as it increases older people’s isolation and loneliness, in turn affecting health and wellbeing.

“It’s also important for retailers who are missing out on huge amounts of revenue. We must value older people – everyone should have the chance to live life to the fullest, regardless of age.”

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Anchor’s research revealed:

  • A quarter of older people feel shut out of the high street
  • 60% of older people are concerned by the lack of seating in shopping areas
  • 33% of older people would feel ashamed to ask for a seat in a public place
  • 24% of older people are put off by self-checkout machines
  • 35% would be deterred by the introduction of robots

Mario Ambrosi, a spokesman for the charity, added: “There was a time when people knew their shopkeepers and could pass the time of day. You can’t do that with a machine.

“The technology needs to have some human interaction, it’s what gets people into the shops.”
Anchor is promoting the Standing Up 4 Sitting Down campaign to improve seating in shops and the high street.

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The report warns that, as baby boomers reach older age and the strength of the grey pound rockets, high streets must dramatically overhaul themselves into age-friendly integrated community environments.