Automation Is Wiping Out Jobs for Some of Amazon’s Retail Executives

As long as Amazon has bought, held, and shipped inventory, it has had retail pros steering the crucial decisions around what products it buys and what quantities it buys them in.

These white-collar workers have cultivated relationships with brands and formed wholesale partnerships across the company’s seemingly endless array of categories, including some, like luxury fashion, that have been reluctant to come on board.

Now, however, Bloomberg reports that the e-commerce giant is restructuring the teams responsible for its retail business, merging the group in charge of its owned inventory with the team that runs its third-party Marketplace, an operation that has been steadily growing year after year, such that in 2017, more than half of all units sold on the site were from independent merchants.

The move is a response, in part, to the company’s gradual automation of many of the inventory decisions that once fell to human employees. Its algorithms are now sophisticated enough to set pricing and predict demand better than even an industry veteran, thanks to years of tracking the consumer behavior of hundreds of millions of uses. Taking a hands-off approach will, unsurprisingly, require less manpower; according to the report, several high-level employees from the group have already left or been reassigned.

“We’ve been working for some time on standardizing the products, tools and services we offer to the brands and resellers that sell on Amazon, and have made some organizational changes as a result,” the company said in a statement.

It’s unclear what these changes will mean for Amazon Fashion, which has differentiated itself as a wholesale-only destination in order to earn the trust of brands that might be wary of brand dilution and counterfeiting, and employs a business development team tasked with recruiting and on-boarding brands like Nike to the platform.

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