Tesco new-look stores to appeal to gadget enthusiasts

Scan as you Shop scanners
Image caption Scan as you Shop should appeal to the many gadget enthusiasts across the country

Tesco is spending £1bn on improving its stores in the UK.

The money is starting to show, but at the store in Amersham in Buckinghamshire, where some of the new ideas are being trialled, the excitement is not immediately obvious.

Yes, there are signs in the local station promising a better, brighter store and signs in the car park proclaiming the "Great News" that the work on the store has been completed.

On the way in, the big sign that used to say "Welcome" now says "Hello", because Tesco thinks it is more friendly and informal.

So far so uninspiring.

Only when you get past the coffee shop do you see the big, red rack of "Scan as you Shop" scanners.

The scanner fits into the handle of your trolley and you scan the things you're buying as you go round the shop and pack them straight into your bags.

Then when you've finished you just pay at a console and leave.

They've had the system in Amersham for a while, but now they're rolling it out at more stores. On Wednesday it was being shown to managers of other stores who were adopting it.

Image caption The Amersham store has a more classical design than some other Tesco stores

Indeed, the people in friendly, yellow, "Here to help" sweatshirts were by far outnumbered by the people in suits with the Tesco badges identifying them as managers.

Will the system turn out to be as annoying as the self checkout machines? It may well do. You have to weigh your own fruit and vegetables and put a sticky label on them that you can then read with your scanner, in a process that will be familiar to people who have shopped elsewhere in Europe.

And it must be admitted that Waitrose had the system first.

Nonetheless, it feels innovative in the same way as Clubcard felt innovative when it was introduced, and that is a feeling that has been lacking in Tesco for a while.

Incidentally, if you're wondering how Tesco is going to prevent this system being used for theft, there will be random checks of people using it.

Salad bar

The other ideas in the refit are unlikely to make such an impact.

Image caption Weighing and labelling your own fruit and vegetables could get annoying for some

The deli counter, butcher, fish counter and bakery look to have had a makeover, featuring a salad bar and new lighting.

Also, some of the aisles have been redesigned, with what they call waterfall shelving, which makes the aisles look wider.

And the non-food items had been given less space and relegated to less prominent positions in store.

Other than that it was business as usual.

There were still the people with the big trolleys doing the shopping for the delivery service, despite the retailer's attempts to move that function to "dark" stores without customers in them.

Tesco has sacrificed its profitability in the first six months of the year to make these investments in its UK shopping experience and stop rivals taking its market share.

Much rests on whether the gamble pays off.

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