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Automation Set to Transform Retail Job Market

28 October 2019 - 15:12 by Graham Miller

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500,000 people currently working in retail could lose their jobs to robots in the coming half-decade, according to a study from Harvey Nash and KPMG.

A combination of artificial intelligence and automation will result in many current roles being rendered redundant, although IT experts are convinced that there will be new positions for human workers in spite of this shift.

Robotics are already relied upon for many aspects of modern retail, especially in the world of safe shopping online, where companies like Amazon have streamlined their warehousing and distribution infrastructures through the use of autonomous equipment.

Of course, this change is partly predicated on the idea that retailers will have access to the necessary talent to actually implement any planned automation rollout. At the moment there is something of a skills deficit in this area, which led study spokesperson Albert Ellis to argue that more needs to be done to ensure that the right people are incentivised to work within the industry in the UK rather than heading elsewhere.

In a high street context, it is customer-facing jobs which are likely to fall under the impending rollout of automated systems, with 66 per cent of checkout workers likely to be at risk according to recent figures published by the Office for National statistics.

Meanwhile, even the production of raw materials such as mined minerals used in electronics as well as consumable crops, which eventually make their way to store shelves and online outlets, are also being procured in automated ways, showing just how broadly the rise of robotics is having an effect.

Consumers are set to benefit from the prospect of lower prices and more efficient shopping experiences in the long term, although the adjustments to the job market that will be necessary may have a detrimental economic impact in the short term.