Amazon is my favorite way to shop. I can’t even imagine life without them anymore. But they are big business and they are taking over whole segments of the marketplace. In some ways, that is good… in others, not so much. They wiped out billions of dollars of grocery store market cap last month when they announced they were planning on purchasing Whole Foods. Now, they are moving on Blue Apron as well. In the wake of this development, shares of Kroger, Wal-Mart, Sprouts, and Target are cratering.
But Amazon’s huge success was pretty much inevitable. Amazon Go’s existence along with other concept stores are virtually eliminating the need for in-store employees. This allows them to spend less and make more. Which in turn, lets them offer lower prices to customers than traditional grocers. It is the face of the future whether people like it or not. Smart stores with no check outs and far fewer employees will destroy the traditional supermarket business model.
A similar revolution is taking place in restaurants. Many are going to computerized kiosks. Other are using computer tablets at tables, so customers can order. Humans will still bring out their food… for now. But there is no doubt about it… robots are going to cut 1,000’s of minimum wage jobs, if not millions in the end and sooner rather than later.
This may take time. The conversion to robots won’t be overnight, but in 10-15 years, you will no longer recognize the retail grocery market. So, grocers have a choice. They can adapt to the technological revolution that is about to transform their industry or they can face the same slow, painful death that ultimately claimed the life of Blockbuster video. Some don’t plan on waiting that long.
A Midwest grocery store chain named Schnucks has decided to deploy Tally… a grocery stocking robot and the wave of the future. It is a slender robot that moves like a Roomba. It automatically checks for stock levels and verifies prices. They have 100 stores in five states. The chain is running a pilot test at one store in Missouri for six weeks, but it is expected to be a precursor to deploying these robots at their other stores and downsizing their employee base.
Each robot weighs about 30 pounds and is equipped with sensors to help it navigate the store’s layout and avoid bumping into customers’ carts. When it detects product areas that aren’t fully stocked, the data is shared with store management staff so the retailer can make changes. It’s brilliant really. I assume management is notified by an alert on a tablet and off they go.
Tally was created by a San Francisco-based company named Simbe. It is also being tested at other mass merchants and dollar stores all across the country. It’s actually been around for a couple of years, but the robotics craze is heating up because of the demand for a $15 an hour minimum wage. Which will ironically put even more people out of work and cause businesses to use even more robots.
There are over 40,000 grocery stores in the US, with 3.5 million employees. People working in them are probably going to have to find another way to make a living. These robots don’t get tired or sick and they never stop working. This is the future… Fight for #15! and Bernie Sanders Marxists might want to take note that they are becoming obsolete.