CKNW Future of Work Series: The impact of technology in the retail industry
(GettyImages-Anadolu Agency)

The wide world of retail has become more than just the world of “I want that.” It’s become the world of “I want it NOW.” That has both brick-and-mortar, as well as online shops taking a second look at how to make the customer happy and fast.

But what exactly does that mean for the people who make their living through retail? According to Doug Stephens, the founder of Retail Prophet it means they’re actually the most likely to lose their jobs.

“Some of these front line, repetitive jobs are going to go away. There’s no question.”

LISTEN: Future of Work – Technology in the retail industry

Many people see retail as their first, and most accessible opportunity to snag a paying job. Just click on Craigslist, the B.C. Jobs Website, or Workopolis.

It’s easy to spot a number of companies posting entry-level jobs in retail for cashiers, merchandisers, store supervisors and managers.

Stephens says the typically basic tasks of scanning, price checking, processing transactions, and tracking inventory are the same ones computers of today are able to replicate.

“There are a good number of retailers, and particularly, in certain sectors like the grocery sector that operate on incredibly narrow margins. It’s quite shocking, really, when you start to look at the balance sheets of some of these retailers, how little money they actually put in the bank at the end of the day. I think these companies are going to be looking at technology very seriously, and looking for anywhere they feel that it can replace employees who, through no fault of their own, but by virtue of the work that they do, not adding tremendous value to the experience.”

Wal-Mart, Superstore, Safeway, and London Drugs are just some businesses using self-checkouts, while online shopping juggernaut Amazon continues to develop drone delivery, and its next-day-delivery service in Amazon Prime.

With costs constantly rising to rein in all this new tech, some businesses have to go the distance to stretch their dollar.

A June 2016 study by the Brookfield Institute for Innovation and Entrepreneurship in Ontario says the changes could be incredibly obvious within the next ten or twenty years.

(Brookfield Study)
(Brookfield Study)

As with any kind of technology, Stephens is confident Canadian hubs will see those changes first, the same way…