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Raising the Barcode Scanner: Technology and Productivity in the Retail Sector

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  • Emek Basker

Abstract

Barcodes and barcode scanners transformed the grocery industry in the 1970s. I use store-level data from the 1972, 1977, and 1982 Census of Retail Trade, matched to data on store scanner installations, to estimate scanners’ effect on labor productivity. I find that early scanners increased a store’s labor productivity, on average, by approximately 4.5 percent in the first few years. The effect was larger in stores carrying more packaged products, consistent with the presence of network externalities. Short-run gains were small relative to fixed costs, suggesting that the impediment to widespread adoption of the new technology was profitability, not coordination problems.

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File URL: ftp://ftp2.census.gov/ces/wp/2011/CES-WP-11-16R.pdf
File Function: Revised version, 2011
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File URL: ftp://ftp2.census.gov/ces/wp/2011/CES-WP-11-16.pdf
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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by Center for Economic Studies, U.S. Census Bureau in its series Working Papers with number 11-16r.

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Length: 51 pages
Date of creation: May 2011
Date of revision: Nov 2011
Handle: RePEc:cen:wpaper:11-16r

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Keywords: Barcode scanners; Retail; Supermarkets; Technology; Productivity;

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References

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  1. Thomas J. Holmes, 1999. "Bar codes lead to frequent deliveries and superstores," Staff Report, Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis 261, Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis.
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  17. Emek Basker & Shawn Klimek & Pham Hoang Van, 2008. "Supersize It: The Growth of Retail Chains and the Rise of the "Big Box" Retail Format," Working Papers, Center for Economic Studies, U.S. Census Bureau 08-23r, Center for Economic Studies, U.S. Census Bureau, revised Sep 2011.
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Citations

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Cited by:
  1. Horst Raff & Nicolas Schmitt, 2011. "Manufacturers and Retailers in the Global Economy," CESifo Working Paper Series 3508, CESifo Group Munich.
  2. Emek Basker, 2011. "Raising the Barcode Scanner: Technology and Productivity in the Retail Sector," Working Papers, Center for Economic Studies, U.S. Census Bureau 11-16r, Center for Economic Studies, U.S. Census Bureau, revised Nov 2011.
  3. Levy, Daniel, 2013. "Discussion of "Change at the Checkout: Tracing the Impact of a Process Innovation" by Emek Basker," MPRA Paper 52605, University Library of Munich, Germany.
  4. Brianna Cardiff-Hicks & Francine Lafontaine & Kathryn Shaw, 2014. "Do Large Modern Retailers Pay Premium Wages?," NBER Working Papers 20313, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  5. Masayuki Morikawa, 2014. "Innovation in the Service Sector and the Role of Patents and Trade Secrets," CAMA Working Papers 2014-48, Centre for Applied Macroeconomic Analysis, Crawford School of Public Policy, The Australian National University.

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