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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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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 17825.

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Date of creation: Feb 2012
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Publication status: published as 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.
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:17825

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Cited by:
  1. 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.
  2. Emek Basker, 2012. "Raising the Barcode Scanner: Technology and Productivity in the Retail Sector," NBER Working Papers 17825, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  3. Horst Raff & Nicolas Schmitt, 2011. "Manufacturers and Retailers in the Global Economy," Kiel Working Papers 1711, Kiel Institute for the World Economy.
  4. 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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