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

Barcode scanners were introduced in the 1970s as a way to reduce labor costs in stores, particularly at checkout. This paper is the first to estimate their effect on productivity. 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, with a larger effect in stores carrying more packaged products likely to bear barcodes. Setup costs significantly offset the short-run productivity effect.

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Paper provided by Department of Economics, University of Missouri in its series Working Papers with number 1101.

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Length: 40 pgs.
Date of creation: 06 Feb 2011
Date of revision: 28 May 2011
Publication status: Published in American Economic Journal: Applied Economics 2012
Handle: RePEc:umc:wpaper:1101
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