The Co-operative Food has invested £6.5m in rolling out wireless handheld devices which will allow the grocer to reduce queueing time at the tills.

The Elf device allows Co-op employees to scan items in shoppers’ baskets. A barcode is then printed which the customer can take to the till to pay, allowing a “queue-busting” reduction in waiting times.

The 6,500 handhelds can also be used by staff to check stock gaps, produce barcodes for reduce-to-clear items and till balancing.

The grocer said 2,890 devices, which use Windows Mobile 6.5, have already been issued to almost 1,500 food stores, with the remaining 3,615 terminals going live in May.

The Co-operative Food head of IT retail solutions Steve Bond said: “The new Elf handheld devices, along with the improved Wi-Fi infrastructure and central replenishment system, are helping transform the way our store staff work.

“These new systems are not only helping our stores run much more efficiently by speeding up the processing of a number different tasks, they are also freeing up more time to enable our food store colleagues to concentrate on our customers’ needs.”

The Co-operative is working with BT Expedite and Datalogic to implement the project.

Co-op Group chief information officer Andy Haywood, who joined the retailer last year from Boots, is conducting a review of the group’s digital operations which could include an online grocery offer.