Hot on the heels of the news last month that Safeway will become the first UK food retailer to use the chip and PIN payment system comes the revelation that it will also be the first supermarket group to use electronic shelf-edge labels.
Safeway has already trialled the system in two stores (in St Albans and Wokingham) earlier this year, and will now roll out the system to more than 50 outlets nationwide.
Safeway's partner in the scheme is NCR Corporation, a US group which specialises in the technology behind the electronic shelf labels (ESLs). NCR explained that ESLs are digital tags that can be attached to shelves or other store fixtures and which display pricing information in large, clear characters. They can also be used to provide other information for shoppers or store personnel.
The ESLs are linked to the same central pricing data that is accessed by the store's point-of-sale system. This assures that when an item is scanned, the price at the checkout always matches the price on the shelf.
The NCR software has already been used in several European countires, and was particularly helpful during the run up to the Euro - the software enabled the shelf labels to display dual currencies and meet European Union requirements with a controlled conversion that is transparent to consumers. Whether this is one of the reasons behind Safeway's introduction of the system remains to be seen.
"Electronic ticketing is a major innovation, which will enable us to offer better information to our customers," said Ric Francis, chief information officer at Safeway.
"The decision by Safeway to rollout NCR RealPrice follows the implementation of our ESL technology in hundreds of stores across Europe and the US," said Pete Bartolotta, vice president and general manager of NCR RealPrice. "The system leads to greatly enhanced operational efficiency and consumer satisfaction."