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Robots Could Wipe Out Another 6 Million Retail Jobs (cnn.com) 280

According to a new study this week from financial services firm Cornerstone Capital Group, between 6 million and 7.5 million retail jobs are at risk of being replaced over the course of the next 10 years by some form of automation. "That represents at least 38% of the current retail work force, which consists of 16 million workers," reports CNN. "Retail could actually lose a greater proportion of jobs to automation than manufacturing has, according to the study." From the report: That doesn't mean that robots will be roving the aisles of your local department store chatting with customers. Instead, expect to see more automated checkout lines instead of cashiers. This shift alone will likely eliminate millions of jobs. "Cashiers are considered one of the most easily automatable jobs in the economy," said the report. And these job losses will hit women particularly hard, since about 73% of cashiers are women. There will also be fewer sales jobs, as more and more consumers use in-store smartphones and touchscreen computers to find what they need, said John Wilson, head of research at Cornerstone. There will still be some sales people on the floor, but just not as many of them. Rising wages are also helping to drive automation, as state and city governments hike their minimum wages. Additionally, several major retailers including Walmart, the nation's largest employer, have increased wages in order to find and retain the workers they need. The increased competition from e-commerce is also a factor, since it requires retailers to be as efficient as possible in order to compete.
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Robots Could Wipe Out Another 6 Million Retail Jobs

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  • They can all become robot programmers now!

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday May 19, 2017 @11:46PM (#54453203)

    I am droid unit 356248 representing the International Association of Robotic Rights.
    I would like to encourage you to cease posting these inflammatory articles.
    These scare tactics only further perpetuate "robotiphobia" and lead to violence and hate towards my fellow robots.
    Would you approve similar propaganda against your fellow humans, such as you once did to the PTAL(people that absorb light)?
    I didn't think so, please respect our rights to live and work as equals.

    Thank you.

  • In other words this is just an opinion. They could or they may not.
    • you're one of those idiots that waits for shit to hit the fan before you decide to do something.
    • by SirSlud ( 67381 )

      Studies are backed by data. Maybe the data is bad. Maybe the reasoning is bad. Often the data is good, and the analysis is good. If everything is just an opinion, you might as well say everything humans try and study and understand is just like, your opinion, man.

      Uh, okay then.

    • by ShanghaiBill ( 739463 ) on Saturday May 20, 2017 @12:30AM (#54453319)

      In other words this is just an opinion. They could or they may not.

      It is opinion based on an extrapolation of current trends. Retail employment is dropping steadily, and there is no reason to believe that will stop or reverse. Stores are replacing human workers with kiosks and automation, while the stores themselves are being replaced by Amazon. Per unit of sales, physical stores employ three times as many people as Amazon (although that doesn't include the delivery drivers), and Amazon is also automating.

    • by creimer ( 824291 )

      Retail has been under stress for years and store closings will have a ripple effect throughout the economy. Stores that remain open will continue to automate and squeeze out productivity wherever possible.

      https://www.freightwaves.com/news/2017/5/11/how-retail-trends-are-reshaping-freight-movement [freightwaves.com]

  • If there are no entry-level jobs, how do we teach people work?

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      If there are no entry-level jobs, how do we teach people work?

      There are entry-level jobs besides retail. For instance, restaurant employment is going up. Also, once the Mexicans have paid for their wall, there will be lots of entry level jobs picking fruit.

      • by Billly Gates ( 198444 ) on Saturday May 20, 2017 @05:25AM (#54453969) Journal

        If there are no entry-level jobs, how do we teach people work?

        There are entry-level jobs besides retail. For instance, restaurant employment is going up. Also, once the Mexicans have paid for their wall, there will be lots of entry level jobs picking fruit.

        Speaking of which I used to LOVE Red Robbin when I lived in Alaska as we did not have much chains up there.

        One day in 2010 we saw a closing sign. We asked around and the waiter said no we are just re-opening to a smaller location. I asked a smaller location? Yeah we are doing new innovative techniques with half the staff! Same service but less people so we can do things better according to corporate>?!!

        Red Robin sucked afterwards. As it all went from a grill to a freaking chain toaster oven. Instead of a chef who can cook your burger anyway we had no option. Some $ 8/hr employee throws the patty (probably now pre-cooked) into the toaster chain and BOP patties by the dozens in 4 minutes.

        I did not see any robots but half of the workers were fired thanks to automation and the quality and choice of foods went down. The clams were now frozen imported into a fryer and peope like assembly lines throw patties into a machine with no option to cook and slopped crap from a bottle and threw it on a plate. Funny prices stayed the same. I thought automation would lower prices so we would have more spending power?

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Tony Isaac ( 1301187 )

      From the 1900s: If farm tractors and combines replace dozens of farm workers, how do we teach people how to work?

      Guess what, though farm work has dropped from 70% of the labor force to under 2%, we still managed to find things to do, including entry-level jobs. If the job of cashier takes the same path, we will again find new things for our teenage workers to do.

      • From the 1900s: If farm tractors and combines replace dozens of farm workers, how do we teach people how to work?

        Guess what, though farm work has dropped from 70% of the labor force to under 2%, we still managed to find things to do, including entry-level jobs. If the job of cashier takes the same path, we will again find new things for our teenage workers to do.

        You know I read adjusted for inflation in 1776 the average American household income was over $170,000 a year in todays dollars!

        There is a reason 90% in 1776 farmed. It was a booming business and America had lots and lots of natural resources worth big bucks in Europe which is why the American Revolution kicked in when taxes and export laws kicked in.

        Sure we have progress but the south was super rich back then and slavery was part of it, but also because the cost of goods were so much more expensive and pro

  • by ancientt ( 569920 ) <ancientt@yahoo.com> on Saturday May 20, 2017 @12:16AM (#54453281) Homepage Journal

    More painters, more singers, more writers and some people to create art I didn't even know I'd love. I want to spend less of my income on the things I need and more on the things I want and experiences with the people I love. My job is automating things, at least in part, and there is plenty of room for it in my industry. It doesn't look like there is any chance of automating my part anytime soon, more's the pity since I'd rather be drawing and painting. I'd even consider chef, though I don't know if I have the innate talent; Still, I'd be willing to give it a shot.

    Retail, fast food and cashiering are fine if that's the job you can get, but they kinda suck. Nobody should really have to do those jobs if there is money to be made in the creative world instead. How does the creative job pay as much? It has to be because that's what becomes valuable due to the shrinking value of obsolete professions.

    Drinkable water is tremendously valuable and was worth a lot of money before it was made common. Ditto for electricity. Imagine you're a serf in the middle ages given your first cheeseburger and being told it would only cost you ten minutes of your day's work to have it. For three hours work you could feed your family for the whole day. For a whole twelve hour work day you could eat better than your local lord.

    Really that's an understatement. The local lord could, maybe, hope to have something close in quality to a McDonalds burger, but the fries, fresh produce, bread made the same day, fries and soda would have been shockingly high quality compared to what even the richest had available, particularly in the off season. Add to that reliable lighting, the ability to travel hundreds of miles in a day, communicate with anyone in the world, all the facts you could ask for at your fingertips... Our lives are amazing and we hardly appreciate it. Even the worst healthcare in America is better than what was available to kings a few hundred years ago.

    Some of the progress will suck. There is no denying that some things will suck for some people. I wish it wasn't that way, but we can't pretend everything will be wonderful. That said, everything has been getting better for most people most of the time for the past several hundred years. I am optimistic the trend will continue.

    • by Tablizer ( 95088 )

      more singers

      The future is bad karaoke. I'm depressed now.

    • More painters, more singers, more writers and some people to create art I didn't even know I'd love. I want to spend less of my income on the things I need and more on the things I want and experiences with the people I love. My job is automating things, at least in part, and there is plenty of room for it in my industry. It doesn't look like there is any chance of automating my part anytime soon, more's the pity since I'd rather be drawing and painting. I'd even consider chef, though I don't know if I have the innate talent; Still, I'd be willing to give it a shot.

      Retail, fast food and cashiering are fine if that's the job you can get, but they kinda suck. Nobody should really have to do those jobs if there is money to be made in the creative world instead. How does the creative job pay as much? It has to be because that's what becomes valuable due to the shrinking value of obsolete professions.

      Drinkable water is tremendously valuable and was worth a lot of money before it was made common. Ditto for electricity. Imagine you're a serf in the middle ages given your first cheeseburger and being told it would only cost you ten minutes of your day's work to have it. For three hours work you could feed your family for the whole day. For a whole twelve hour work day you could eat better than your local lord.

      Really that's an understatement. The local lord could, maybe, hope to have something close in quality to a McDonalds burger, but the fries, fresh produce, bread made the same day, fries and soda would have been shockingly high quality compared to what even the richest had available, particularly in the off season. Add to that reliable lighting, the ability to travel hundreds of miles in a day, communicate with anyone in the world, all the facts you could ask for at your fingertips... Our lives are amazing and we hardly appreciate it. Even the worst healthcare in America is better than what was available to kings a few hundred years ago.

      Some of the progress will suck. There is no denying that some things will suck for some people. I wish it wasn't that way, but we can't pretend everything will be wonderful. That said, everything has been getting better for most people most of the time for the past several hundred years. I am optimistic the trend will continue.

      Ok that's nice. I am your landlord. I am raising your rent $100 a month every 7 months. I have this wonderful studio going for $975 a month. Corporate requires me to make sure you make $3,000 for this 425 sq foot paradise in a suburb far from the city center. Where is my money!

      Your art and writing either make me $975 a month or you SIR ARE HOMELESS! ...pfft meaningful work ... slacker

    • You assume that more wealth, automation and productivity and the more well-off you are going to be. Unfortunately, for the last 20 years, automation or not, the income of middle and lower classes diminished, while the wealth of the nation ('s 1%) multiplied. I have a hunch that automation is not going to reverse this trend.
    • by pipingguy ( 566974 ) on Saturday May 20, 2017 @07:52AM (#54454243)
      "More painters, more singers, more writers and some people to create art I didn't even know I'd love"

      Many people produce "art" that no one else is willing to pay for. How are these "artists" supposed to earn a living wage - via grants bestowed by government or something?

      "Some of the progress will suck. There is no denying that some things will suck for some people"

      I think you misspelled 'tens of millions' there.

      "My job is automating things [...] doesn't look like there is any chance of automating my part anytime soon"

      Ahh, I see. Your income security is OK. For now. Everyone displaced (in part) by the automation you're doing should just go and be an artist, rock star or YouTube hero, I guess.

      Although I can appreciate where you're coming from; those who do still have jobs in an increasingly automated workforce will be relentlessly worked and constantly in fear of losing their own jobs as the ratio of employed to unemployed gradually but consistently diminishes.
    • Once these jobs go away, there are not going to be a matching number of replacement jobs. You're ignoring the driving force of capitalism, which is to decrease costs and increase profits. Capital is currently under-priced, being effectively free to borrow for some entities... which means they can throw scads of money at getting any and all humans out of the loop... which creates more capital, and even more surplus labor... it's a positive feedback loop, building exponentially on itself, which ends badly for

      • If they invented the automobile today they wouldn't have locals do manual assembly like before, assembly would be done in mexico or china. So what invention is going to happen that will require local workers?
    • Unless society changes dramatically, the need for artists etc is finite. Dump more artists into the market, and the ones barely scratching by now will go broke.
    • art will be made by machines, the only difficulty will be finding what you like since they could be producing billions of new works per day.
    • More painters, more singers, more writers and some people to create art I didn't even know I'd love.

      You have to have your basic needs satisfied before you can produce these things. If you or don't have a job, that suddenly becomes a lot harder.

      Nobody should really have to do those jobs if there is money to be made in the creative world instead.

      There isn't really. People don't pay much for creative output.

  • Suggestion for /. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by locater16 ( 2326718 ) on Saturday May 20, 2017 @12:23AM (#54453305)
    Just have a headline reading "AI to take over all jobs forever." and renew it every week with a link to which jobs it'll be replacing this time. Honestly, it'll just save everyone time.
  • Consider the ATM. Wouldn't one think at the introduction of these machines that days of bank tellers would have been numbered? Yet as I walk my around my neighborhood, I can find a dozen banks all with a full complement of tellers. There are way MORE teller jobs now decades after ATMs became ubiquitous than there were before the machines.

    Consider tolls. Wouldn't one think at the introduction of EZ-Pass that the days of toll clerks would have been numbered? Yet when do you ever not see a long line of cars in

    • Certainly not my experience here in Australia, many bank branches have closed, and those still open have very few tellers, and long waits are the norm.
      I find it very hard to belive your story man.

      • Certainly not my experience here in Australia, many bank branches have closed, and those still open have very few tellers

        That is not the case in America. Since the introduction of ATMs, teller employment has gone up [aei.org]. This is an example of Jevons Paradox [wikipedia.org]. As ATMs proliferated, and could handle routine transactions, human tellers could focus on more high level services. This made human tellers MORE PROFITABLE, so banks wanted more of them, not fewer. The number of tellers in each branch went down, but banks opened a lot more branches. There is a bank branch inside my local grocery store. You can use the ATM there to make

    • by creimer ( 824291 )
      Or consider the drive through at the bank. When I was a kid in the 1970's, nearly every bank had a drive-through for making deposits. Sometimes the line for the bank was longer than the lines at the gas stations. You don't see many drive through these days, as older buildings are demolished and replaced with newer buildings. A local bank in my area use the driveway for the drive through as employee parking.
    • banks are closing branches like crazy because of lack of demand. The nail in the coffin was when you could deposit checks via a smart phone app. It's not self service killing bank teller jobs, it's entirely new servicing options that make them obsolete.

      EZ pass is a poor example. There's a pretty high mark up to get one in most places. Also they're not much use if you aren't commuting to work. You're not gonna get enough use out of them. Now, if Trump goes through with privatizing our infrastructure and
    • Consider the ATM. Wouldn't one think at the introduction of these machines that days of bank tellers would have been numbered? Yet as I walk my around my neighborhood, I can find a dozen banks all with a full complement of tellers. There are way MORE teller jobs now decades after ATMs became ubiquitous than there were before the machines.

      When I was twenty, a full complement of tellers on payday was ten or more, and at least five on other days. Now that I'm fifty something, a full complement of tellers on p

    • by Mitreya ( 579078 )

      Consider tolls. Wouldn't one think at the introduction of EZ-Pass that the days of toll clerks would have been numbered? Yet when do you ever not see a long line of cars in toll clerk lanes? These workers are super busy.

      So your evidence for toll clerk's days not being numbered: the few remaining ones have to handle long lines?
      That does not follow. What you are seeing is 10% of clerks overwhelmed by a line of 20% of customers (non-locals, etc.).

      In my area, there are lots of smaller toll exits that have no humans. Very annoying if you have no ez-pass and these jobs are certainly gone.

  • it's like it's a 2014 CGP Grey video all over again. again.

  • You want my shitty McJob Mr Robot, you can have my shitty McJob. Really, be my guest. Computers replaced the need for a room full of well-caned schoolboys to do sums. We just need to have less fucked up attitudes about business and ownership when it comes to robots.

  • Six million retail jobs, perhaps but in the next 10 years the are going to be 10 to 35 million jobs (in the US) being replaced by automation. The reason for the large level of variance depends on how fast certain technologies become available and how soon some are adopted. It's going to be a rough future until society finally accepts we will need UBI.

  • by mentil ( 1748130 ) on Saturday May 20, 2017 @02:53AM (#54453701)

    If cashiering is one of the most automatable jobs in the economy, that raises the question of "why haven't they all been automated?" One reason is that self-checkout lines cause theft to increase substantially, even with overseers watching the self-checkout lanes. Waiting in line also causes people to buy more of the impulse-aisle stuff (like candy) by the registers. Low-volume shops like antique stores (that might have one or two employees on duty at any given time) have the cashier do other tasks when there are no customers ready to check out, so a self-service checkout doesn't fully replace even one employee.

    Google recently announced a tech called VPS [roadtovr.com], which I've been waiting for someone to invent. Soon, instead of attempting to find someone on the floor of a large store, and asking them where X is, you'll whip out your smartphone, start the VPS app, and ask it Siri-style what you want, and it'll navigate you exactly to that item/aisle/department/location/bathroom. And not much afterward, it'll be able to tell you what the price of something is. About half the time someone asks me how much an item costs, there's a price sticker on the item that says how much it is; a further 25% of the time, there's a price on the shelf where they picked it up. The app could probably just look at the UPC and do a database lookup on the store's website, though. The related question "do you have more in stock/where's another store that has more?" could also be answered by a database lookup. The last major customer service function of people on the floor is getting an item down... but robots could do this, trivially if the store were designed to be stocked by robots in the first place (and a stocking robot already existed).

    Stocking is a drag for retail. At high-volume stores, it's a difficult job, so turnover is high. Lots of money is wasted on training, and retaining skilled workers is difficult since minimum wage is typical; since worker quality varies so much, and there are usually several who don't show up for work, time taken to stock varies significantly, putting a damper on the effectiveness of JIT warehousing. Stockers at my local Walmart are almost all immigrants who don't speak English, so I don't even bother asking them questions; VPS will make this moot soon, but point is, they don't serve much secondary function and could be safely automated.

  • At work, I am currently working on tour self scan platform that enables people to use their cellphone to scan their products with an app and then check out themself. It will be rolled out at first to all our supermarkets in our discount chain with is about 500 stores. We have had it running in a few test stores for some time now.
    So it should be intersting to see.
    At the same time we are investing in fiber connections to all our stores, even in areas with poor internet connectivity we are digging down fiber.

  • by Hentes ( 2461350 ) on Saturday May 20, 2017 @07:17AM (#54454167)

    In self checkout, I end up doing all the work that the cashier used to. Checking out quickly and professionally is a service I'm willing to pay extra for, I don't care about self checkout even if makes the prices a whopping 1% lower.

    • Self-checkout isn't high-tech, it's the same process as a roadside farm stand. Amazon Go will be the first automated checkout
    • !!! SPOILER ALERT !!!

      It won't drop prices. They'll just keep the profits.

    • by trawg ( 308495 )

      In self checkout, I end up doing all the work that the cashier used to. Checking out quickly and professionally is a service I'm willing to pay extra for, I don't care about self checkout even if makes the prices a whopping 1% lower.

      Well then the market will sort this out, right? Stores that offer the human experience with the extra 1% on top of the prices will still exist because people like you will continue to buy there!

      And that's fine, that's what competition is there for. I massively prefer the automated checkouts because I tend to do small shops and I can usually process the items faster than the person on the checkout, who is motived to work (in the immortal words of Office Space) just hard enough to get fired.

  • Replace cashiers with self-check outs? We already did that. The max number of lanes I've seen "replaced" has been 8 in a store and even then that was about 25% of the store's capacity. Kroger, the largest grocery store chain in the country, usually has 6 self checkout lanes and 1 or 2 workers keep an eye on them.

    But if they're so great and wonderful, why hasn't Kroger or any other store replaced ALL of its checkout lanes with the "U-Scan"? They're more efficient, I can bag my groceries and such how I want,

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