Along with my colleague Françoise Carré (University of Massachusetts Boston), I am undertaking a broad study of how technological change and the Covid-19 pandemic will affect retail jobs and people. We are looking at qualitative impacts (skill requirements, training needs, mix of tasks within a job), quantitative impacts (changes in staffing levels and number of jobs), and compositional impacts (what types of jobs will shrink, and which will grow?). We are examining a range of technologies—definitely including e-commerce in its many varieties, but also automation of functions like logistics, checkout, and customer service, and technologies for scheduling, training, monitoring, scripting, and enhancing associate actions. Within retail, we focus on store-based employment.

Graphic credit: National Retail Federation and Forrester