Speed up the cash register queues - seven tips


Queues of people in a shop

Long queues at the checkout can drive customers away and cost you sales. Customer wait times,  studies show the average time a person will wait is 6 to 7 minutes in checkout queues before walking out. For retailers, slow cashiers can have a big financial impact. 

The Cost of Customer Frustration

When customers wait too long at the registers, many will leave your store. Some studies estimate that 10% or more of potential sales are lost to customer walkaways. And for those who do stick it out, the memory of queues will linger in their minds.

To crunch some numbers of lost sales - if your business has one walkout a day with an average sale of $30, you have lost $11,000. If it is two, you have lost $20,000+  - that is money you could have kept if your checkouts moved faster.

The risk goes beyond the immediate lost sales, too. Think of your customer satisfaction if you have frustrated customers. They often don't return quickly if they associate your shop with long waits. Slow registers cost you transactions today and cost you customer experience value in the long term. Is it any wonder why major retailers like supermarkets invest heavily to speed up checkouts? You need to take note and make changes, too. 

Average time to complete a transaction in a shop

The industry standard to do this is about 40 seconds for transaction time plus about three seconds for each item to be scanned and rung up. So if you need to ring up four things, the time taken is expected to be about 40 seconds, plus four items in their basket at 3 seconds each, so it's almost 52 seconds.

Calculating The Cost to Your Bottom Line

To figure out the cost of long queues, here are two key metrics to analyse in your store:

Average transaction time: How many seconds does it take to process each sale?

Look at your POS software's " find transactions " screen to see what typical speeds you can achieve. For comparison, I've included some transaction speeds that my clients have achieved with our POS system. 

On this cash register number, they were doing a transaction every three (3) seconds.

Here as you can see, they did transactions from two (2) seconds onwards.

On this page, it was four (4) seconds onwards. Interestingly, the $431.80 transaction that would have required scanning many items was completed in about forty (40) seconds.

Customer defection rate: What % walk away after seeing line lengths?

What you need here 

  • Number of lost sales from your Retail sales
  • Sales value per abandoned basket
  • Profit margin lost

I would suggest looking at both weekly and yearly figures

How to reduce checkout queues

Here are some proven ideas to try in your store to keep the registers moving faster:

1. Restructure Queue Layout

Research shows a single queue line feeding multiple checkout points is perceived as fairer by customers than individual lines per register. It also helps even out speeds so no single operator bogs down line length.

2. Hide Long Lines

Retail store planning experts talk about the power of “inflow angles”. What this means is when a customer enters your store, carefully analyse sight lines to any queues - long lines early in the shopping journey can trigger an early walkway. If they see a long queue, many people looking to shop in your shop will not go in.

3. Entertain Waiting Customers

Don’t let waiting customers dwell on queue length. Distract them with something; banks often use a TV. What works in shops are items that are hot sellers. It is not the sales to just consider but the distraction value. A magazine that a customer can look through while waiting works, too.

4. Keep Registers Clear

A common complaint is when customers have already committed to queuing but see unused registers not being opened despite staff floating nearby not helping ease waits. Make sure your staff, top priority is to jump on a register when lines start to develop.

5. Scan Whenever Possible

Barcode scans are proven 3 times faster than keying in product codes. So ensure everything sold has usable barcodes - even make barcode labels for loose goods or frequently sold combos. Bundling items that often go together also minimises scanning actions at the register.

6. Integrate EFTPOS

Many of you do not use it for cost, but consider that you can save seconds on each sale by integrating EFTPOS into your point-of-sale system. Avoiding re-keying in amounts slashes transaction times and reduces miscues when switching between the terminal and register. It is also more accurate.

7. Cashier speed

When queues are long, having your fastest operators active becomes critical. Slow cashiers bantering with customers may be helpful for engagement at quiet times, but focus on processing transactions fast at peak times. Knowing checkout rates for each staffer also enables good roster decisions.


Even implementing a few quick wins here pays dividends through higher converted transactions and improved customer loyalty. Getting checkout queues moving faster is necessary for any retailer serious about sustaining growth. Reach out if we can help analyse your current state or provide advice beyond what was covered today.

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