Is Amazon Signaling the Beginning of the Automation Crisis?

Amazon opens another 2000 sq. ft. cashierless store with potentially 3000 more planned.

Online mega-giant Amazon.com opened its first cashierless store outside the Seattle area in January of 2018. The second store opened soon afterwards in downtown Seattle. When the next Amazon Go store opened September of 2018 in Chicago, Bloomberg leaked that the franchise may be considering as many as 3,000 additional stores by 2021. Such a development could signal the true advent of the automation crisis.

On the face of things, simply removing the cashiers from a store may not seem like that big of a deal. Particularly given the fact that The Chicago Tribune indicated that at the new Chicago launch, “orange-shirted Amazon Go employees at times outnumbered customers.” But it seems fair to expect that, once customers adopt the learning curve of the store, the numbers of active employees would significantly be reduced as well, plummeting employment numbers across the country.

The new stores are set to compete with 7-Eleven-style stores, sandwich eateries like Panera Bread and Subway in addition to mom-and-pop styled shops and food trucks. According to Bloomberg:

The U.S. currently has 155,000 convenience stores, with 122,500 of them combined with gas stations, according to industry group NACS. Non-fuel purchases at convenience stores totaled $233 billion in 2016, with cigarettes and other tobacco products the best-selling items.

Amazon is targeting dense urban areas with lots of young, busy, affluent residents willing to spend a little more than a typical fast-food experience for better quality food, the people said. The target locations make it less of a threat to suburban gas station-convenience store combinations and more of a threat to big cities’ quick-service eateries, such as Subway Restaurants, Panera Bread Co. and Pret a Manger. U.K.-based Pret has 450 locations worldwide, including New York, Boston and Chicago, focusing on fresh, healthy grab-and-go foods.

Amazon already controls 49+% of the U.S. Online shopping market. Its dominance, colloquially dubbed “The Amazon Effect,” has brought about the death of hundreds of major retail stores. As a matter of fact, just the announcement of the potential of the 3000 new stores dropped their competitors’ stock prices. Walmart Inc. declined as much as .6%, Target Corp. 1.5% and Kroger Co. fell as much as 3.1%.

Reality Changing Observations:

Q1. Would you or would you not be willing to sacrifice convenience and cost to maintain other peoples’ jobs and why?

Q2. How do you think that “The Amazon Effect” is impacting commercial community gathering spaces?

Q3. How might changes in shopping make humanity’s lives better or worse?

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