J.C. Penney's Latest Leap: Retailer to Ditch Cash Registers, Cashiers

JCPenney cash registers
Cash registers could join the ranks of pay phones and typewriters sooner than you think.

J.C. Penney (JCP) will say farewell to cash registers, checkout counters and cashiers by 2014, said Ron Johnson, the chain's CEO, during the Fortune Brainstorm Tech conference, reports Time.

Penney's plan evokes Apple's (AAPL) mostly cash-register free stores -- and that comes as little surprise: Johnson was the head of Apple Retail and is considered the mastermind behind its success. He left Apple in November to take the top spot at J.C. Penney.

Johnson, who has been in the headlines lately for Penney's radical, controversial -- and so far, unsuccessful -- strategy to eliminate most of its sales and coupons, is now looking to shake up the checkout experience in the chain's stores.

His plan is to eliminate cashiers, cash registers and checkout counters, replacing them with a patchwork of technology solutions, such as WiFi networks, mobile checkout, RFID (radio frequency identification) technology tracking systems for merchandise, as well as self-checkout options.

"Think of a physical store without a cash wrap," Johnson told the audience, according to Time. "About 10% of all the money we spend, half a billion dollars a year, goes to [checkout] transactions." The money saved by replacing checkout stations with new technology could be invested in improving customer service, he said.

Ryan Taft, managing partner with OnSpot Social, an iPad app for retailers that collects Facebook "likes," Twitter followers and email addresses in-store, believes the retail industry is at the early stages of the end of the widespread use of cash registers.

"In-store marketing through technologies like iPad, RIFD, WiFi, etc, is the future of retail," he tells DailyFinance. "Some retailers may do away with cash registers altogether, while others may simply cut down on the number of cash registers, and only use them for larger purchases."

Taking a Cue From Apple

Apple, for one, let's customers of its Apple Stores pay in any of three ways, he notes.

Each Apple Store typically has one or two cash registers at the back of their stores, mostly reserved for large purchases.

"The second is actually through an Apple store employee who will take your credit card and run it through their credit card scanner attached to an iPod Touch. The third, and in my opinion the most innovative, is you can actually check yourself out by pulling out your iPhone, opening the Apple Store Application, scanning the barcode of your product, and then paying through your iTunes account," he says. "This is the future of retail checkout."

And while some predict the demise of store associates along with cash registers, not necessarily, Taft says. "Sales associates won't go away in the new retail paradigm, their roles will simply evolve for more customer service focused responsibilities."

But there's a rub when it comes to the wholesale elimination of cash registers in stores, says Natt Fry, senior executive of Accenture's Retail Practice.

"Retailers still need cash tills because a large percentage of their customers use cash, especially the unbanked consumers," he tells DailyFinance.

Still, in the future, "All other transactions can, and will be, conducted using either the retailer's mobile device or the customer's," Fry predicts.

Increase your money and finance knowledge from home

How to Buy a Car

How to get the best deal and buy a car with confidence.

View Course »

Economics 101

Intro to economics. But fun.

View Course »

Add a Comment

*0 / 3000 Character Maximum


Filter by:

I went to the Johnson City Mall JCPenney location yesterday and had my first experience with the new handheld devices. 2 times she ran my card and both times it declined as an error. After an argument about my card indeed having money on it, the 3rd time she ran it, magically it approved, she looked at me like it was a miracle. She then did not offer a receipt, I asked if I were going to get a receipt, she said, "Since they have not taken our registers as yet, you can get one, but in the future when the registers are not here, paper receipts will not be given." Now, I live in a location that has many people without computers or email, exactly how is that going to work? I see this as becoming a HUGE disaster! I was annoyed by the changes made on clearance prices, annoyed by the way the layout of the store changed, there is NEVER enough stock now, the plus size section is micro sized, the dresses look like CRAP to say the least, I have not even used my JCPenney credit card in over a year because of the crap this store has turned into, and now the added annoyance that I know my mother is going to go through because she does not have email and she's in her 60's, email and computers is not something she is familiar with in any sense of the word. I am extremely disappointed in JCPenney and I'm done with your store, forever.

As the old saying goes, "Fear the customer that says nothing and simply takes their business elsewhere quietly."

January 27 2013 at 8:50 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
jane doe

One thing that is not said here is that after scaning your card. Instead of a stylus (electronic pen) to sign they want you to use your finger. I don't think I should have to give you my fingerprint to purchase an item. But the rub on trying to get away from that, you will be in the long line for the one cash register that they will have in the store that has cash. Plus ultimate after this gets establish a person can watch the pattern and try to steal from this one cash register. However, less likely with prior register policy because no one knows if the person at the register is just coming on had a good cash day or more credit day. In general CREEPY, discourages people from shopping!!!!

December 01 2012 at 6:07 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
James M

The future of sales, apps on phone, etc, really, neatly ignore some of use don't go in for app running phones, don't like those half functioning self check outs at Lowes, food stores and like to see floor staff staffing each department. It is why they call it a department store, genius. Target suffers from the no staff problem, oh wait, this clown worked his magic there, too. I don't shop there, the lack of staff and it always feels like they just don't have the stuff you want, no real saving, very few if any real discounts, coupons, rather boring, very generic.. Targets like WallyMart has that I am not a department store feel, basically a warehouse. We have switched to Kolh's and Macy's leaving JCP in the past along with Sears, Kmart, Monkey Wards, remember that one? JCP can't get us back. Sorry Apple genius, man, that is a long running joke, this guy needs to buy a clue from the salary he rakes in.

September 15 2012 at 8:21 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Raymond Zink

My wife is being trained to use the Ipad for checking out items in the Liz shop at JCP... She has come home with sore arms and neck from carrying it around and using it all day... You wouldn't believe it , but It is more physically demanding than working at a register... Not too mention the stress of trying to get the new technology to work... It's really not a very good application of the technology...

September 11 2012 at 10:52 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

If this happens I will stop shopping at JCP all together I already cut my shopping their since they dumped coupons by 50% . I will not enjoy this since I have shopped their For 50 years .What is this CEO trying to do put JCP out of business ???or does he work for some other chain ?????

September 05 2012 at 4:34 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Ditch Johnson and keep the cash registers!! I have worked for a company lead by an ego as big as Johnson's and now that company is heading down the drain same as JCP. The Board needs to take action now and remove this clown while maybe the company can be saved.

August 10 2012 at 1:55 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Well; I hate that. I want be shopping at JC anymore.

August 05 2012 at 1:40 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I could care less if they go about of business now, with there revamping from a traditional style company they have gone full blown sodomite insane. Good bye JC Penney,we will see how the sodomite perverts keep you in business with there less then 1% of the population,

August 03 2012 at 4:55 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Jay Hall

I believe we're watching the dieing last breaths of a once major retialer. What a shame. I used to thouroughly enjoy shopping JC Penney.

August 03 2012 at 2:28 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Jay Hall's comment

They have gone sodomite insane all due to the degenerates they have hired to run the company. It's over with for them, I wouldn't purchase a sock from these freaks.

August 03 2012 at 4:56 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

good ill just shop online when i need something from pennys..say goodbye to my money

July 30 2012 at 6:17 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply