Front-End Checkout Merchandising



By Bill Ilaria, IRI and Mindy Asper, Impulse Marketing Co.

During the pandemic, shoppers visited stores less often and spent less time in store when they did visit. Social distancing limited shopper numbers and queuing protocols reduced valuable dwell time. The result was a 28% drop in impulse snack purchases in 2020, and a drop from 9th to 11th for checkout items in sales among all store categories.

This was a big shift from a department that over-delivered on profits pre-pandemic, indexing 139 compared to total store. Fifty-eight percent of consumers report they will change stores if the primary difference is a better checkout experience. As consumers return to stores, front-end merchandising can help create this positive experience while also giving retailers a driver for impulse sales growth.


  • One-third of shoppers say they plan to use self-checkout for most or every store trip in the next year. But traditional check-lane merchandise sales declined an average 52% when converted to self-checkout.
  • E-commerce sales are up 53% in mid-April versus a year ago. This behavior is likely to stick, creating an opportunity for online impulse options but further dampening prospects for in-store conversion.
  • The checkout area is often unmanaged as a category across retailers, and current tracking efforts during annual or three-year merchandising updates are no longer adequate.


  • Frequent tracking of front end in total will help retailers assess their ability to convert these highly profitable transactions and better benchmark success versus competition.
  • Adding a queue wall at the entrance of a self-checkout area can deliver an estimated incremental $20K in sales per store per year.
  • Edible products represent a potent opportunity, with all recent growth for checkout occurring in edible segments, particularly beverages (+5%) and snacks (+142%).

This report shares these and other trends in checkout, along with the opportunities retailers can seize to optimize this category that is so essential to the bottom line and the overall customer experience.

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