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Agriculture

Survey suggests shoppers approve of self-checkout lanes at the grocery store

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  • TORONTO — A new survey suggests most grocery shoppers spend 32 minutes per visit and approve of those automated self-checkout lanes.

    The study out of Halifax’s Dalhousie University underscores that the “worst part” of shopping for many consumers is waiting for a cashier, says lead investigator and professor Sylvain Charlebois, who predicted even more grocery technology is on the horizon.

    The management professor says he was surprised shoppers spent such little time per visit and shopped only 1.29 times a week, noting that’s less time and less frequent than similar studies on U.S. shoppers.

    At the same time, it seems self-checkouts are becoming increasingly popular, with 25.1 per cent of shoppers “strongly agreeing” and 29.6 per cent “somewhat agreeing” that they are a good idea. Another 20.3 per cent were indifferent.

    The Grocery Experience National Survey Report took place over three days in October 2018, and surveyed a controlled sample of 1,053 people online in both English and French. The margin of error is 3.1 per cent, 19 times out of 20.

    Charlebois said the study encompassed stores that dedicate the majority of their footprint to food, including chain supermarkets, small independents, butchers and bakeries. The findings were set to be released Tuesday.

    He said shoppers seem to like variety, with the average Canadian noting they regularly visit at least two different stores.

    “It’s certainly good news for competition, for independents (and) small stores. I suspect that Canadians are curious, they want to go to a place where they can find lots of different products,” he said, adding that the survey did not ask about the types of store most frequented.

    Consumers also said they want more human interaction, which seemed to run counter to an apparent affinity for self-checkout. But it could just come down to the type of staff interaction they want, said Charlebois.

    “The end of their experience, which is probably the worst part of grocery shopping — paying for your food, waiting in line, reading the first page of the National Enquirer — those are things people just don’t want to do,” said Charlebois, whose study found 11.1 per cent of respondents always use self-checkout, and 54.9 per cent occasionally use self-checkout.

    “But when there is a situation where there’s some confusion, or consumers are a little bit lost, they want that human interaction. That’s why that assistance factor seems to be quite high.”

    Still, he notes increasing automation runs the risk of pushing consumers out of the store in favour of online shopping.

    “There’s a bit of a balance there. As a grocer you want to humanize the experience because that’s something you can’t replicate online,” he said. “And the other thing you cannot replicate online, which is actually making grocers lose sleep at night, is impulse buying.”

    About half of the respondents, 49.4 per cent, said they had never bought groceries online and were not planning to, while another 34.3 per cent said they were considering it.

    Canada’s first self-checkout lane appeared in 2000, when the technology was somewhat cumbersome, said Charlebois.

    “It’s not as bad as it used to be but there’s more work that needs to be done. I do see the day where people will be able to walk out of the grocery store without seeing someone, (without) paying anyone, basically. It would actually be withdrawn from their bank account automatically, like Amazon Go.”

    The study also suggests some urban/rural divides.

    City dwellers appear more likely to choose a store based on its ownership, while rural dwellers seem to prioritize price.

    And while just five per cent of the total sample said they currently subscribe to a meal kit service or are considering a subscription, that number rose to 60 per cent among urbanites.

    Cassandra Szklarski, The Canadian Press


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    Ag Politics

    WATCH: When Boycotts Don’t Work

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  • What do you do when you want to boycott something, but can’t?

    This video is a co-production. Ryan Tipps at Ag Daily and Nick Saik worked on this piece together.  It’s about what can happen when bitten by a particular nasty little tick.  This tick, the “Lone Star” tick, has saliva that triggers an immune response reprogram in humans.  This in turn triggers an allergy to all types of red meat, such as beef, lamb and pork. In Nick’s words:

    “He’s written an excellent article that you can checkout here: https://www.agdaily.com/insights/when… Heads Up: I use a political analogy in this video. It’s not meant to rile anyone up, it just seemed like a good way to explain my point. I don’t care what side of the political spectrum you fall on, it was just an analogy….”

    This video was produced independently by Know Ideas Media


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    Agriculture

    Feds’ plan for neonicotinoids makes little sense, environment groups say

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  • OTTAWA — Environment groups are calling out Canada’s approach to assessing pesticides after seven years of reviews led Health Canada to simultaneously decide to allow certain popular products to keep being used with restrictions, and to propose banning the same products from outdoor uses altogether.

    The Pest Management Regulatory Agency on Thursday released its final decision on what limits should be placed on a category of nicotine-based pesticides known as neonicotinoids to keep them from killing bees. Starting in two years, the pesticides won’t be allowed to be sprayed at all on certain crops like apples and tree nuts and there will be limited times when they can be sprayed on many others, like tomatoes, eggplants and berries.

    Products that have no alternatives are given an extra year before they are affected by the decision.

    The agency said the risks the products pose to bees in other applications, such as pre-treating seeds, are acceptable and only require new labels to warn of the dangers. Most of Canada’s canola and corn crop seeds are pre-treated with neonicotinoids, along with about half the country’s soybean seeds.

    However, this decision, which won’t begin to take effect until 2021, will likely be overridden in less than a year when the agency finalizes a separate assessment of the exact same products for their impact on aquatic insects. The agency found in 2016 that the most popular of the neonicotinoids was building up in ground and surface water and recommended banning it outright. It also launched a special assessment of the other two most common “neonics,” concluding in 2018 that they also needed to be banned.

    The very final decision on that won’t come until January 2020.

    “Right now this is strictly about the risk to pollinators and for this assessment not all uses pose an unacceptable risk to pollinators,” said Scott Kirby, the director general of the environmental-assessment division of the pest management agency.

    Lisa Gue, a senior researcher at the David Suzuki Foundation, said it is “disturbing” that the agency is continuing to allow neonicotinoids at all given that the agency’s scientists have concluded they cause unacceptable harm to any kinds of insects.

    “The decision-making process here is just incomprehensible and incoherent,” she said.

    Beatrice Olivastri, the executive director of Friends of the Earth Canada, said the agency’s fragmented approach to reviewing the products is “nonsensical.”

    Neonicotinoids are used by farmers and hobby gardeners alike to manage pests like aphids and spider mites. Scientists blame the chemicals for weakening bees, making them more susceptible to disease and bad weather.

    More than one-third of the world’s food crops require pollinators, like bees, for production.

    The European Union banned neonicotinoids at the end of last year after scientists concluded there was no safe way to use them without hurting bees. In 2017, a task force at the International Union for Conservation of Nature updated a compilation of more than 1,100 peer-reviewed research studies of neonicotinoids and concluded there was no doubt they harm bees.

    Mia Rabson, The Canadian Press



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