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Communications of the ACM

Communications of the ACM

The impact of scanners on employment in supermarkets

A brief review is given of the early estimates of the rate at which scanners would be installed in supermarkets and the resulting labor and consumer responses. The actual situation in 1979 is then discussed and detailed labor savings achieved by one supermarket chain are given. A fully scanner-equipped supermarket is estimated to have a 5 percent lower labor requirement than an unautomated store with the same volume. It is projected that 50 percent of the 23,000 large supermarkets will install scanners by 1984 with the remainder doing so by 1988. At full penetration, scanners will reduce total industry employment by approximately 50,000. Few actual layoffs will occur because of the high turnover in the industry. Furthermore, the stores that install scanners may attract customers from nonautomated stores leaving those stores to handle the job losses.

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