Computerization could eliminate more than half of retail jobs, analysts conclude

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates in a May 2017 report that 7.5 million retail jobs are at risk because of automation.
By Linda Mack | Jun 04, 2017
Amazon's continuous expansion as brick-and-mortar malls across the country close their doors for good marks an ongoing trend that is not about to reverse course any time soon, according to analysts in both government and the private sector. Reports indicate that as many as half of human retail jobs will disappear in coming years as more and more shoppers either buy online while more brick-and-mortar stores turn over much of their daily work responsibilities to computers.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates in a May 2017 report that 7.5 million retail jobs are at risk because of automation. The entire retailer workforce is approximately 16 million, so this equates to one out of every two retail jobs.

Workforce-management software may also thin the workforce. These software programs help managers track workflows and determine when business is up or down and fill staff positions accordingly. They can shed staff as soon as business slows rather than keep them on the clock without a guaranteed return on the investment.

Retail employees stand a better chance of staying employed if they learn how to serve online customers, suggest analysts at the Investor Responsibility Research Center Institute. They find that those retail workers who only know how to provide customer service in-person will be likely to lose their positions to automated kiosks, offsite customer call centers, and remote warehouses that receive orders online.

The U.S. Census Bureau's data supports these assertions. Its Quarterly E-Commerce Report released in the fourth quarter of 2016 noted that online sales accounted for more than 9% of all retail sales in the United States, and that e-commerce grew 14.3% from fourth-quarter 2015 while total retail sales grew only 4.1%.

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