‘Retail refugee crisis’ is coming with store closures



The retail industry is losing scores of
jobs.

AP/Elaine
Thompson


The retail landscape looks like it’s about to get rougher for
everyone — especially those on the lowest rung of the ladder.

Retail is the largest employer in the US, employing an
estimated 4.6 million people in full- or part-time jobs.

But estimates
also say
 that the sector has shed more than 89,000 jobs
in general merchandise stores alone between last October and May
of this year. At last
count
, over 6,375 stores have been announced for across the
country this year.

It’s this shedding of jobs that’s about to create what
retail-industry consultant Doug Stephens is calling a
“retail refugee crisis” in
an article
in Business of Fashion.

It’s not hard to envision a store of the future where there are
very few employees, if any at all. 

Automation is spreading into more and more places in stores, from
ringing up customers at the cash register to stocking product.
The phenomenon also extends outside of the store itself, with
robots that can do fulfillment and order processing both for
stores and for going directly to customers. Automation could also
reasonably apply to driving trucks and performing
simple customer-service tasks.

“Retail workers will become the blacksmiths of their era,”
Stephens wrote.

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