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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
File Function: First version, 2011
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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. Levin, Sharon G & Levin, Stanford L & Meisel, John B, 1992. "Market Structure, Uncertainty, and Intrafirm Diffusion: The Case of Optical Scanners in Grocery Stores," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 74(2), pages 345-50, May.
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Citations

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Cited by:
  1. Emek Basker, 2012. "Raising the Barcode Scanner: Technology and Productivity in the Retail Sector," American Economic Journal: Applied Economics, American Economic Association, vol. 4(3), pages 1-27, July.
  2. Horst Raff & Nicolas Schmitt, 2011. "Manufacturers and Retailers in the Global Economy," Kiel Working Papers 1711, Kiel Institute for the World Economy.
  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.

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