Robots Will Reshape – Not Replace – Retail Work

by Alana Rusin and Jennifer Furey

As we have discussed in earlier blog posts, rapid changes in the retail landscape due to the rise of e-commerce and a shift in customer’s interests from old-school, one-stop department store shopping to experiential retail, has led to a recent wave of retail bankruptcies and store closings. The shuttered stores also mean a loss of retail jobs, in particular traditional retail sales clerks. Now traditional retail jobs face another threat – automation.

Retailers have been introducing automation throughout brick-and-mortar stores, from Amazon Go (a high-end convenience store with an entirely automated sales process), to the rise of self-checkout lanes, to the mobile order and pick up option popularized by Starbucks that is now popping up throughout the fast-casual sector, including at Sweetgreen and Panera Bread locations. Even fast food restaurants are jumping on the automation bandwagon. McDonald’s is starting to introduce the “Experience of the Future” including mobile ordering and the use of new digital ordering kiosks that will replace cashiers. Wendy’s is also introducing a similar kiosk ordering system in their restaurants.

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