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Robots Or Humans? Amazon Ponders Aussie Workforce

Reactions are mixed in the online retail industry, following Amazon’s confirmation yesterday that it will launch a full online retail business in Australia in coming months.

Roy Morgan analysts say Amazon is timing its expansion in Australia well, as more tech-savvy Aussie shoppers now buy online. It points  out that more than 8.7 million Aussie consumers bought one or more products via the Internet in any given four-week period last year.

However online retail remains a very small portion of the overall retail market Down Under, with the Australian Bureau of Statistics noting (CDN, April 4) that – while total online sales in the last December peak buying period totalled a record $1.26 billion – that was a mere 3.8pc of the total Australian retail turnover for the month.

The arrival of Amazon, of course, could see that percentage rise significantly. But that will come at a huge cost for Amazon which must set up warehouses  – either staffed by low-paid humans or no-paid but expensive robots.

Amazon has reportedly already signed a lease on a large purpose-built warehouse at the Goodman Group’s $50 million Oakdale Industrial Estate, at Sydney’s Eastern Creek, according to a Fairfax report.

So far it’s unknown whether the new sheds will employ human pickers and stackers, or rely on the robotic technology Amazon uses some of its US facilities. In the early days it’s likely to use Australia Post’s extensive delivery network, according to some sources.

Services the US giant could introduce to Australian include Amazon MarketPlace, Prime Now, Amazon Pantry and Amazon Fresh.

Amazon has already called for expressions of interest from Australian companies keen to set up shop on Amazon Marketplace.

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