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Sales staff on the way out

self-serveThe reduction (not elimination) of sales staff in retail, is upon us.  It has been for a little while now with the advent of self check outs but this video brings a new perspective. Sales staff really are becoming redundant.

There are about 1.3 million people employed in retail in Australia.  Many will not be affected because they work in other areas apart from sales, or they are back office or head office staff.

But even if the new technology applies to a small percentage of those employed, many people will face the dole queue.

The primary driver behind this technology is simply (high) wages.  And the driver behind high wages are the unions.   Yes – yes, speak to any unionist and the threat of jobs being lost is dismissed as they push for more and more.

I have a great respect for Russell Zimmerman, Executive Director of The Australian Retailers Association.  A few years ago I stated that retail wages will need to come down.  This was around the time that self check outs appeared.  Russell disagreed and I suspect he is right and I am wrong, but ask any retailer what their main two issues are and almost every one of them will cite wages and rent.  If Russell is correct, it will mean that numbers of staff will dwindle as wages go up and technology improves.

This prognosis is not taking into account the internet which adds a different dimension to the debate.

In November 2015 I wrote about robots replacing sales staff and again in May 2016.  At about that time I was also droning on about drone deliveries.  It looks like 2017 may be the year in which this all starts to happen for real.

The impact on jobs is one factor but there will be a spin off on how technology deals with these challenges.  Point of Sale suppliers should be embracing these changes sooner rather than later.

Stuart Bennie is a retail consultant at Impact Retailing www.impactretailing.com.au and can be contacted at stuart@impactretailing.com.au or 0414 631 702.

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