In Finland, A Chain Tries An Extra-Slow Checkout Lane. Can Armchairs Make Customers Happy—And Maybe Buy More?

While U.S. grocery chains are struggling with whether they're better or worse off with self-checkout and express lanes, a supermarket in Espoo, Finland, is experimenting in the opposite direction: intentionally slow checkout. Dubbed the "don't panic" lane, the slow-track checkout at a store in the K-citymarket chain offers armchairs for people waiting to pay, help putting products on the checkout belt and a generally relaxed approach to paying for merchandise.

The pilot project is being done in conjunction with researchers at Aalto University, who thought mentally disabled customers would prefer a less hectic, more helpful checkout process. But it seems elderly customers and even parents with small children in tow also like the slow lane (those armchairs seem to be a big draw in both groups). Running customers through checkout at top speed may be the most efficient way to do it, but an extra-slow checkout offers plenty of opportunities to hit those armchair-bound customers with digital signage and potential impulse items—keeping some customers happier and potentially paying for itself with increased sales. For chains that have already given up on one-size-fits-all checkout, that slow lane might actually make good retail sense.