Productivity Commission: How technology is going to destroy Australia's retail model

Photo: Robert Prezioso/Getty Images)

Retailing in Australia is in for some huge changes according to the Productivity Commission’s report into the Australian workplace and wages, released on Monday.

In-store technologies have become increasingly commonplace in retail over the past year, in a bid to streamline the customer experience and drive sales.

But as brick-and-mortar stores become increasingly automated and businesses focus on building an online presence, the big question remains on how employers and workers will fit into the bigger picture.

Along with the controversial issue of weekend penalty rates, the Productivity Commission’s report considered how increasing technological add-ons would affect the state of employment in Australia.

The report says that “new technology” such as self-service checkouts will see 12 registers single-handedly managed by one supervisor – something supermarkets began rolling out years ago – while self-service kiosks and robots with cognitive skills in the cafe and restaurant sector will gradually limit the amount of hours and workers needed for food preparation and service.

“If the cost pressure on labour remains, the incentive to invest in human capital will decrease even for small businesses,” the Commission concludes.

And the 9-to-5 workforce will also fade the Commission concludes, saying “successful operation of online stores in Australia providing global services requires a 24/7 workforce as the purchasers may be in quite different time zones to Australia.”

As consumers increasingly shop online, businesses will need to change their employment strategies to accommodate for a 24/7 virtual presence as well as taking into account increased weekend consumer activity and the shifting demand from a regular store to a warehouse.

You can read the full report here.

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