500,000 UK retail jobs to be replaced by robots by 2024

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Robots are set to replace more than half a million retail jobs in the UK over the next five years as retailer increasingly look to automation to improve efficiency.

Automation and artificial intelligence (AI) is expected to replace one in five UK retail jobs by 2024, according to new research from KPMG and Harvey Nash, which forms part of the world’s largest technology leadership survey.

Nearly 45 per cent of IT leaders surveyed said that improving efficiency using automation was one of their key concerns, while a further 25 per cent said they had already begun piloting Robotic Process Automation (RPA).

Those who had started implementing automation reported a higher probability of better operational efficiency, better customer experience and faster time to market.

READ MORE: 108,000 retail jobs lost to automation and ecommerce since 2011

Despite expecting traditional retail jobs to be severely impacted by automation, 67 per cent of those surveyed believed new more digitally focused jobs will compensate for the job losses.m

This will effectively lead to a reorganisation of roles, rather than few jobs in retail altogether, but a further 67 per cent of IT leaders said there was a skills shortage preventing them from matching the pace of change.

“While much of the narrative has been around what jobs might be lost, the real battle for success will be around which retailers will be able to attract and develop the right skills and talent for this new automated, digital world,” Harvey Nash’s chief executive Albert Ellis said.

“The rapid deployment of new technology in the sector has allowed retailers to replace skills which are in short supply with automated solutions.

“But, at the same time, technology has created new roles in areas such as big data/analytics – and retailers are now reporting that they aren’t able to find enough data scientists to fill these vitally important roles.”

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