JD.com boss says retail will be “entirely” operated by robots

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Retail will be completely taken over by robot workers in the future according to the chief executive of one the world’s largest retailers.

JD.com’s Richard Liu told an audience at the World Retail Congress yesterday that he predicts: “Sooner or later, our entire industry will be operated by AI (artificial intelligence) and robots, not humans.”

As head of China’s second largest ecommerce platform, Liu is already pioneering technologies such as drone delivery, warehouse automation and AI in order to meet the immense demands of its 1 billion customer base.

Though Liu said it could take a decade for the industry to be entirely populated by robots, retailers here in the UK are already slashing scores of jobs in favour of automation.

Last week Shop Direct announced nearly 2000 warehouse workers are set to face redundancy as it introduces automation into its supply chain.

In a similar move Marks & Spencer announced 450 jobs would thrown into uncertainty as continues to consolidate and modernise its distribution centres.

Despite Liu’s bold claims, other retail leaders at the event warned against this.

John Lewis’ group director Tom Athron said: “Humans and machines together will always be more powerful than machines on their own or humans on their own.

“If consumers don’t want the human touch in retail then we are in real trouble as an industry.

“The easiest thing to do when sales fall is to cut costs by taking jobs out of stores but that’s not what customers want.”

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