Retail giant Target has been taking some major hits in recent days, since the company announced its official position allowing transgenders to use the bathroom of the gender they identify with. The decision seems to have not gone over well with a large swath of customers, largely conservatives.
Over 1 million have now signed the #BoycottTarget pledge, and that number is sure to rise, given how quickly it’s been rising since the petition’s launch just a week ago. Target’s stock has plunged 5.8% in 10 days, and its brand perception has dropped to its lowest point in eight months.
Many liberals have registered their support of the retailer in the face of the backlash, posting their support on social media and pledging to shop there in solidarity.
Now, in the midst of this bottom-line shredding brouhaha over transgender bathrooms, the retail giant is going full-on gender neutral in one regard — but it’s bound to anger liberals this time.
Target is testing robots to take on some duties at one San Francisco store.
Target is testing robots that track inventory on its store shelves including shampoo and laundry detergent.
The retail giant is conducting a one-week trial at one of its department stores in downtown San Francisco, according to a source familiar with the matter and confirmed by three store clerks.
Simbe Robotics, a Silicon Valley startup, built the robot called Tally that it says can roll autonomously around the store while scanning products to determine if they have been misplaced, mispriced, or are low in stock. Here’s a video of the robot in action, via Twitter:
The future is here! Target in downtown San Francisco has a robot that scans the aisles managing inventory! pic.twitter.com/Nug1cpJhZL
— Mike Yawney (@Gadget_Guy) April 26, 2016
Three Target store clerks in San Francisco told Fortune that the robot trial has been running for the past week. One of the clerks said Target was hoping to see how well the robots could detect and recognize items. Another clerk said that the robot seemed slow.
In September, Fortune’s Phil Wahba reported that Target partnered with the startup accelerator, Techstars, to help fund and mentor companies focusing on retail technology near Target’s Minneapolis headquarters. Additionally, Target executives said the retail giant was said it was looking to develop a “concept store” that could incorporate robotics and other technologies, although details were limited.
Target TGT -2.25% joins a growing list of retail companies testing robots in an effort to improve store operations and even customer service. Orchard Supply Hardware, a subsidiary of Lowe’s LOW 0.84% , has been using a customer assistant robot in a San Jose store from the company Fellow Robots that has a touchscreen that store customers can use to see what items are in stock. The robot can also take the customer to the spot where the item they want is located.
While the retailers testing out robots tout improved store operations and even customer service, what they of course are not highlighting is potential cost-savings in employee payroll. As many have predicted, robots taking over human jobs may be just one of the consequences of a $15 mandated minimum wage. Sure, some people may enjoy a higher minimum wage, while many others may start enjoying unemployment.
How do you think liberals, who profess to fight for the “little guy” and rail against corporations, will receive news that Target may be replacing minimum wage jobs with robots now?
Cue the outrage? Or just the unionization of robots?
[Note: This article was written by Michelle Jesse, Associate Editor]