IT seems that more and more supermarkets these-days are trying to push self-service checkouts on customers.

The rise of self service tills, however, has not pleased everyone and many customers have complained, even boycotted stores, unless there are sufficient manned check out desks.

But back in October of 1948 a shopping revolution was unfolding in Southend - and it was all very hush hush.

In secret, without a word to its customers, Lipton’s Grocery Stores in the High Street decided to install the first self serve machine of its kind in the Britain.

The machine came all the way from Australia and was built to help modernise the often mundane shopping experience.

Echo:  Lorries packed with crates containing part of the machine arrive in the High Street, destined for Messrs Lipton’s grocers Lorries packed with crates containing part of the machine arrive in the High Street, destined for Messrs Lipton’s grocers (Image: Newsquest)

Up until then, shoppers would have to queue up at the shopping counter and await their turn while the grocer would then fetch and pack their groceries one by one.

But the new ‘self service chute’ at Lipton’s would change all that.

The machine got off to a bad start, however, as the day of its arrival it was several hours late after the fleet of lorries ferrying it from George V Docks got held up.

Traffic in Tylers Avenue had to be controlled by police as a crane was used to unload the huge crates from the lorries.

Great effort was made to prevent news of the arrival of the machine from leaking to the public. The head office of Messrs Lipton refused to say anything except “the machine is very secret”.

An Australian engineer in charge of the installation even tried to stop newspaper photographers from taking photos of the machine arriving.

Once assembled the machine would allow shoppers to enter the store though a special door where they could then order their goods by means of a push- controlled panel.

They would then walk round to the receiving end of the giant machine where their goods would arrive by chute.

A checkout girl would then take their cash and, as rationing was still in place, cut out the appropriate points from the shopper’s ration book.

Though seemingly reluctant as first, shoppers soon got used to the progressive new contraption - although many still preferred the ‘old way’.

A few months earlier in 1948 the first self service supermarkets had been opened at the Co-op in Manor Park and and at Marks and Spencer in Wood Green, using machines from America.

Because of its chute, the Lipton’s machine was different and was the first of its kind to be installed in the country.

There were some local concerns the self serve contraption could result in sales assistants losing their jobs.

However, secretary of the local shop assistants and trades union admitted: “It’s one of those things we have to accept in a progressive age.”