Alibaba to open first unmanned retail store

Alibaba has announced that it will open its first unmanned retail store in Hangzhou at the end of the year. This project is part of the new strategy for TMall, Alibaba‘s online retail arm, which aims to improve traffic flow and discover more complex business scenarios in the unmanned retail sector

Mr. Ying Hong, the project leader, said the store location is still a secret. “The plan is to complete technology upgrades by the end of the year,” said Ying, “and set up the world’s first unmanned retail store in Hangzhou to the vast numbers of consumers for the long-term.”

Ying brushed off criticism of unmanned retail causing widespread unemployment as nonsense. “In the 80s, there were bus conductors, but the bus cards that followed did not cause the majority of people in the transportation industry to lose their jobs,” said Ying. “So there is no reason to fear technology. In fact, science and technology have made our lives easier.” He said the unmanned retail sector will not only reduce unemployment, it’ll create more new jobs too.

For example, cashiers might be replaced with machines. But according to Ying, that does not mean jobs will be eliminated. He thinks this is the way to create new jobs and promote progress.

“Intelligent logistics administrators, intelligent warehouse packers, data analysts… these are some of the sustainable and optimized jobs that will be hard to look for in the new era of retail,” said Ying.

“In other words, unmanned retail stores may replace cashiers and front-end staff, but it will spawn more intelligent back-end jobs,” said Ying. “And what’s more interesting is this: in cases where technology is sufficiently mature, these future shop assistants can even work from home.”


This article originally appeared in Sina and was translated by Pandaily.

Click here to read the original Chinese article.