Grocery store work is changing amid increasing automation, online sales, reporting results – Red Deer Advocate
High-profile new report on the state of Ontario’s food industry profiles a sector where jobs are changing rapidly as retailers dive deeper into e-commerce and automation gains momentum .
With online grocery orders and delivery accelerated by the pandemic, the hiring of warehouse, logistics and fulfillment workers or “personal shoppers” has started to overtake more traditional supermarket jobs, says The report.
According to the report, concerns have also emerged about the possible disruptive impact of automation – changes that could have a lasting impact on the future of food retailing.
The report released Wednesday by the Brookfield Institute for Innovation and Entrepreneurship, an independent economic policy institute based at Ryerson University, highlights the changes in e-commerce and automation that are shaping the grocery industry through the country.
“COVID-19 restrictions and risks have dramatically accelerated Canadian demand for online groceries,” the report says, noting that online grocery sales have increased 700% since the start of the pandemic .
Rather than an expected decline in jobs, the 43-page report found that the rise of automation and online shopping is instead changing the nature of retail work in grocery stores.
Unlike traditional grocery jobs such as cashiers, store clerks and shelves, and product stockers, who tend to focus on customer service, the report found that new jobs in e-commerce involve fulfilling online orders, packing groceries, preparing food and delivering orders.
While many of these positions remain in stores, they are also increasingly located in so-called obscure distribution centers and stores, which operate exclusively to fulfill online orders.
“What we can expect is that the nature of jobs and the demand for different skills will change,” said Kimberly Bowman, senior project manager at the Brookfield Institute and one of the report’s authors.
Front-end supermarket workers should have good communication and customer service skills, for example, while warehouse workers focus on more independent tasks such as packing orders. she declared. Personal buyers who fulfill click-and-collect orders have a hybrid role, Bowman added.
While some jobs will actually disappear or decrease, she said many more will change and new jobs will be created.
“We haven’t found any evidence that there would be a significant contraction in demand for workers,” Bowman said. “We can see some job cuts, like replacing cashiers with automatic tills, but we are also seeing other jobs emerging.”
As the use of automated payment kiosks grows and online grocery shopping grows in popularity, a supermarket with no employees is not likely anytime soon, according to the report.
“Despite the public debate over automation that could disrupt the employment of food retail workers, employers are hiring and the pandemic has only increased the need for these positions,” the report said.
Bowman added that human staff were still needed.
“The customer service component and the human component can actually be a very strong differentiator, especially for high-end brands,” she said.
But that doesn’t mean that the work available in stores doesn’t change as well.
The report, titled Shakeup in Aisle 21: Disruption, Change and Opportunity in Ontario’s Grocery Sector, says grocery store retail jobs are increasingly becoming part-time and weekend work.
A generation ago, Canadians bought food on weekdays and Saturdays, according to the report. But now the busiest shopping day is Sunday, with the most popular weekday shopping times between 4 p.m. and 7 p.m., according to the report.
While the roles of cashier and clerk are increasing, the report says there was a 15% drop in full-time positions from 2006 to 2016.
Indeed, a food retailer told researchers that while grocery stores used to hire full-time employees, “it doesn’t happen like that anymore.” No one is hired full time. “
Meanwhile, grocery shopping is poorly paid at the point of entry, according to the report, with cashiers and clerks earning a median salary of $ 14.25 in Ontario.
Another food retailer told researchers that with an average rent of $ 2,000 per month for a one-bedroom apartment in the Toronto area, many people had two or three jobs to stay. afloat.
Yet despite the low wages, Bowman said that doesn’t mean the workers at the grocery store are low-skilled.
“Low pay doesn’t equate to low skill,” she said, noting that more than half of the grocery store workers the researchers interviewed for the report had some post-secondary education.
Bowman said food retailing requires not only customer service and communication skills, but problem-solving and other valuable skills as well.
“Customer service remains in high demand,” the report says. “Given the challenges associated with pay and job quality, some of these workers may wish to explore pathways to other occupations.”
This report by The Canadian Press was first published on May 26, 2021.
Brett Bundale, The Canadian Press