By Catie Low

Coles’ latest salvo in the supermarket wars is a self service checkout with a conveyor belt bolted on to make DIY scanning more family friendly.

The new rolling, self-service checkouts are already being trialled at two of Coles Melbourne stores but the supermarket giant would not say how quickly the concept could be rolled out across its network or whether it would replace the standard DIY checkouts.

Coles also plans to install 200 new full-service check outs across 672 of its stores in the next nine months and increase staff in the self-scanning area.

However, no new staff will be recruited to support these initiatives, with Coles claiming efficiencies on the shop floor meant staff could be redeployed to customer service roles.

These initiatives are all about Coles leveraging its market leading position before Woolworths installs a new chief executive, according to retail consultant Steve Kulmar.

“Coles has this window of six months and it’s going to drive home these softer, more service-oriented initiatives,” Mr Kulmar said.

“It’s all about improving the customer service because both Coles and Woolworths know that ultimately they can’t win on price, what they can do is try and make the experience of shopping either quicker, easier or more immersive.”

Coles said the new generation of self-service units were developed in response to shopper complaints that the DIY bays were too cramped and difficult to use for large shops.

Coles operations director Andy Coleman said the units could be operated by either a customer or a staff member and depending on the response to them, the trial could be rolled out to more stores.

“We’ve always had staffed checkouts available but we are also always looking at new ways to help customers shop at Coles,” Mr Coleman said.

Woolworths announced this week it would invest $65 million to upgrade its shop-worn supermarket network, fix lighting, upgrade trolleys and increase staff hours.

The investment fell short of some analyst expectations of what’s required to turn the ship around and Retail Doctor Group’s Brian Walker said it was a good start but only a small investment in Woolworths push to “get back to basics.”

“My response is it’s good but it’s less than 1 per cent of revenue,” Mr Walker said.

Woolworths’ investment follows a similar journey Coles embarked on seven years ago but Citi retail analyst Craig Woolford said Woolworths had not gone far enough and the supermarket giant needed to spent $200 million a year to revitalise its supermarkets and take on Coles.

First published in The Sydney Morning Herald, 24 September 2015