Robotics Revolution: Grocery Stores Embrace Self-Checkout and Robots
As the specter of increased food prices looms, grocery stores are gearing up for a technological revolution. The Wisconsin Grocers Association President and CEO, Brandon Scholz, predicts a surge in self-checkout kiosks and an increased presence of robots within grocery store settings.
According to the Wisconsin Bankers Association’s Wisconsin Economic Report, Scholz emphasizes the impact of the ongoing pandemic on food prices, noting that while inflation rates are gradually normalizing, the pandemic-driven inflation rate of 8.9% continues to exert pressure on food and grocery prices. Despite returning inflation rates approaching 3%, the pandemic’s influence on inflation persists, with the USDA predicting a 1% increase in grocery prices in the year ahead.
With grocery prices on the rise, Scholz foresees a shift in consumer behavior, anticipating an inclination towards purchasing bulk items while avoiding certain products due to price concerns. He attributes the decrease in grocery store employees to the pandemic’s impact, pointing out that the retail food sector still faces staffing shortages despite the absence of reductions in pandemic-related wages and benefits.
In response to the dwindling workforce, Scholz anticipates the installation of additional self-checkout lanes and the potential integration of robots to manage inventory within grocery stores. However, the overarching goal remains to reduce prices back to pre-pandemic levels, an aspiration that may not be realized in the immediate future.
Some grocery stores have already initiated the utilization of robots, with Sam’s Club leading the charge by introducing robots capable of grilling and assembling burgers, in addition to processing payments. These activities reduce the need for human interaction, marking a significant shift in the retail food sector towards automation and technological advancements.