Image: Oli Scarff/Getty Image

The decline of traditional retail has led to job losses across the country, and at least one expert says that’s likely to be the new norm.

“Retail is one industry in which employment is likely to vanish” as job-killing automation replaces more and more store workers, Oxford professor Carl Frey wrote in a dismal report for Citi Bank this week.

More precisely, Frey and a team of researchers estimate that around four in five retail jobs that don’t directly deal with customers will disappear in the coming decades. Nearly two thirds of sales jobs face a similar threat.

Expert predictions vary wildly on the severity and timeframe of the job apocalypse that advancements in automation could bring. 

Frey sits closer to the doomsayer end of that range. He also famously predicted that robots will eventually threaten 47 percent of all American jobs in a hotly debated 2013 paper with artificial intelligence expert Michael Osborne.  

Despite challenges from many other researchers, Frey is holding true to that forecast. He also dismisses the optimistic notion that tech will create just as many jobs as it kills off. 

In his view, the retail die-off will be followed by a long bleak period in which the former retail workforce will struggle “to find solid footing in the labor market.” 

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