Walmart’s Judith McKenna sings automation in retail praises
Retailers play a special role in society and so have a responsibility to think about the future of work, the technology driving it and the impact it will have on people.
So said Walmart International CEO Judith McKenna during an automation focused keynote speech at Retail Week Live yesterday. Highlighting the Kinsey forecast that 60% of jobs are expected to be affected in some way by automation, she commented: “Millions of people will have to transition to new jobs, do them differently or find new careers. Transition on that scale is scary but there’s no point turning the other way and pretend it’s not happening. Technology will help us to run better businesses and create economic growth, but it needs to be managed in the right way.”
Walmart is now using or trialling ‘lots of different automation’, from floor cleaners to autonomous delivery vehicles, ‘a robot that goes up and down the aisles with depth of vision to help restocking’ and an app in the States that directs customers to product using an interactive map.
This, McKenna claimed, is giving associates “the freedom to sell and to serve…Where automation has been brought in to help with difficult jobs, the reduction in staff turnover has been significant.”
McKenna called for retailers to prioritise inclusivity, specifically, “women and other underemployed populations such as young adults to create economic prosperity, which is fair and equal to all.”
When pushed on the Asda/Sainsbury’s merger by Retail Week Live chair Harry Wallop, she replied: “We’re still in the process – we’re still working with CMA to see what the path forward is. We think we put together what was a fair and reasonable proposal which enables the merger to be delivered in a way that was beneficial to British consumers.”