Have smartphones killed sales at the checkout lane?

Today’s RetailWire panel discussion tackles the issue of declining impulse sales at store checkout lanes. While the premise of the article under discussion puts the blame on mobile phones (and users who are checking e-mail instead of buying candy or soda), most panelists agree with me that there are other underlying issues:

I’m skeptical about whether the use of smartphones has really killed demand for gum and candy in the past year, but I have a few other theories for the decline in register endcap sales:

1. How many registers are open on a consistent basis in discounters or grocery stores? Any staffing cutbacks (such as the well-publicized ones at Walmart) are going to translate into fewer open lines, and self-checkout is only speeding that process in drug and food stores.

2. Print media are in rapid decline because of the rise of online versions of magazines and newspapers. Why pay for a copy of People when you can read it online? It’s no coincidence that Time Warner is working to spin off its print division.

3. Finally, most stores depending on checkout endcaps to drive impulse sales do it in an unimaginative way. This prime real estate has been occupied by the same types of merchandise (see point #2) for as long as I can remember.

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