Shopping Centers Today International

FEB 2016

Shopping Centers Today is the news magazine of the International Council of Shopping Centers (ICSC)

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The checkout problem Cash-register lines have always sparked complaints, and some want to eliminate the hassle altogether Retailers and tech firms across the globe are working to make shopping as easy and convenient as possible by speeding up, or even doing away with, checkout lines. But the challenges here are not just technological: Banks and credit- card issuers also shape the payment process, and their focus tends to be on fighting fraud rather than boosting con- venience, observers say. Consider the global shift to chip- enabled credit cards. While the tech- nology has been in wide use across the European Union for upwards of a decade, many U.S. retailers began ac- cepting so-called smart credit cards only in 2015. Much to the consternation of some, this transition to a more secure payment technology slowed checkout lines just as the holiday season was getting under way. "The one thing you hear retailers talk about — and they have been talking about this since 1975 — is improving checkout," said consultant Todd Werden, a vice president at Boston Retail Partners. "And what have we done to checkout? We just screwed it up." When all goes smoothly, the shop- per inserts the chip card into the reader and waits for completion of the veri- fication process before removing the card. This system takes longer to pro- cess than a swipe, however. Worse, at times a shopper will remove the card too soon, which forces the clerk to re- start the transaction. In other cases, a consumer will dutifully insert the card into the reader only to be told to swipe as usual, because the POS system has yet to be upgraded to verify chips. "The amount of time it now takes to pay for something has gone up by a multiple," Werden said. I n 2 0 0 5 b a n k s made smart cards the norm in the EU by forcing retailers to accept liabil- ity for any fraud per- petrated by means of the older, magnetic-stripe cards. A similar liability shift took effect in the U.S. last October. But though getting away from the older cards has caused headaches, a sharper focus on se- curity should make it easier for retailers and tech firms to forge ahead with next- generation checkout systems, according to an American Banking Association statement submitted to a subcommittee of Congress. Chip cards (sometimes referred to as EMV — for EuroPay, MasterCard and Visa, which originally developed the technology) are necessary in today's era of hackers and data breaches, the American Banking Association noted "The one thing you hear retailers talk about is improving checkout. The amount of time it now takes to pay for something has gone up by a multiple."

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