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E-commerce demands come off of COVID highs
Several automation suppliers have told us that COVID-19 accelerated demand expected for the next five years into a year and a half. However, the consumer shift from brick-and-mortar retail to e-commerce wasn’t entirely permanent.
Sure, people of all ages and backgrounds now know how to order meals, groceries, and other goods on demand. But as social distancing faded – at least in Europe and North America – shoppers began returning to stores.
“On average, the online share of total spending rose sharply from 10.3% in 2019 to 14.9% at the peak of the pandemic, but then fell to 12.2% in 2021,” wrote analysts at the International Monetary Fund (IMF).
As a result, companies that had expanded rapidly to meet e-commerce demand have been forced to downsize, laying off workers (see previous item).
It’s not all bad news. The need for supply chain flexibility and resilience continues to drive robotics adoption, as retailers consider omnichannel systems. These include micro-fulfillment centers, approaches such as in-store fulfillment, and even customers picking directly from automated storage and retrieval systems (ASRS).
Sales of service robots for logistics and other industries increased 37% in 2021, according to the International Federation of Robotics (IFR).
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