Between 6 million and 7.5 million retail industry jobs could be lost to automation within 10 years, according to a May study by the Cornerstone Capital Group.Newsmax news service reported Monday that as many as 47 percent of the 16 million Americans currently working in retail could be lost to e-commerce and automation within a decade.
One Wal-Mart worker profiled by the Wall Street Journal learned last year that her $13-an-hour job of counting cash would be replaced by a machine. A machine called Cash360 can count eight bills a second, 3,000 coins a minute and digitally deposit money at the bank to earn interest faster. The worker, a 10-year Wal-Mart veteran, was reassigned as a store greeter job for the same pay.
Summarizing reports from the Wall Street Journal and Fortune magazine, Newsmax said the U.S. economy has lost about 71,000 retail jobs so far in 2017 as routine tasks become automated and thousands of stores close because of competition from e-commerce companies such as Amazon.
Nearly 16 million people, or 11 percent of non-farm U.S. jobs, are in the retail industry, making it bigger than the factory sector, the report says.
In-store roles most vulnerable to being replaced by machines include cashiers and order clerks, while salespeople and freight handlers are slightly less exposed, Newsmax concluded.
Amazon.com has caught the attention of federal regulators recently with a plan to buy Whole Foods Market Inc. for $13.7 billion.
The deal would be complete late this year, if it goes through, according to news reports.
Amazon is the world’s largest online retailer, and its popularity with shoppers is thought to be a prime reason why many national retail chains, such as JC Penney, are closing stores.
A key legal question is whether Seattle-based Amazon has grown to the point of discouraging innovation from competitors, which could bring anti-trust restrictions.