Retail Sector

Roslyn Larkin, Alan Nankervis

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review


The retail sector is the largest employer in Australia providing significant work opportunities for low and semi-skilled persons, students, and those entering or re-entering the workforce. Casualisation and precarious work arrangements are common and come with low wages and low union representation. Unlike most other industries, many retail players benefitted greatly from the COVID-19 crisis, with the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) data showing record increases in sales. Even so, artificial intelligence (AI) and automation generally have already started having significant negative impacts on employment within the industry. At this time, effects are particular to supply chain and distribution, but automation-pressured change is beginning to impact front-facing operations and the employment of those in such positions. This chapter takes a closer look at the effects of automation to date and the consequences for employment that are likely to occur as further automation rolls out. In doing so it will consider the composition and structure of the sector with an emphasis on Food Retailing and Other Store-based Retailing from both small-medium-enterprises (SMEs) and large business perspectives. While some predictions of the transformation are ominous for future employment, especially those in the lower-skilled entry-level positions, there are also optimistic predictions made by both employers and unions mostly where future service-based leadership models are adopted and supported by industry and government.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Fourth Industrial Revolution
Subtitle of host publicationWhat does it mean for Australian Industry?
PublisherSpringer Nature
Number of pages15
ISBN (Electronic)9789811616143
ISBN (Print)9789811616136
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2021


  • Artificial intelligence
  • Automation
  • Distribution
  • Retail
  • Supply chain


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