1982 Coles trials scanning

In 1982, Coles began to trial the scanning of barcodes at checkouts. The first supermarket to use scanning in Australia was SIMs supermarket in Footscray, Melbourne and in 1990 Franklins became the first chain to use scanners in all its stores. Other chains followed soon afterwards.

Coles had been a party to the formation of the Australian Product Numbering Association in 1978, along with other major retailers including Woolworths, Myer, Safeway, Foodland and McEwens. Leading manufacturers participating in the project in the early days included Reckitt and Colman, Carnation, Quaker Products, Rowntree Hoadley and Stanley Tools.

Initially, customers were wary of the new technology. This led to the development of a code of conduct promising that, if the scanner indicated a price higher than was shown on the shelf, the customer would receive the product free.

Coles was among the first to introduce self-scanning in 2004. By 2020, about half the supermarket’s sales were via self-scanning rather than the traditional checkouts.

In 2020, Woolworths began trialling a check0ut free system, which required customers to scan items with their phones as they loaded groceries into their trolley.  Many are predicting that checkout-free shopping will become the norm within ten years.

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