Personally, as a retail worker working for a hardware store I despise this push towards automation. I don't consider it to be innovative or progressive at all, it's just another way for the store to save money while making life more difficult for those in the field.
Of course productivity gains are driven by financial considerations, it has ever been thus.
But society (government) can choose to oblige employers to reinvest a meaningful portion of those savings back to into higher wages, more benefits or greater customer service, or some combination thereof.
At my store, we have 3 exits/entrances out of which customers can enter. Two have regular cashiers but the centre entrance has a self check out as well as two regular lanes. The SOP is to keep the self check out open at all times, and with the alleged "slowdown" (of which I've seen no evidence) with the end of summer we very rarely have the personnel to keep either of the regular lanes open, with breaks and lunches seemingly always needing to be covered. So you'll have one cashier standing at the self check out, monitoring 4 stations, while an endless stream of customers comes by. If you are lucky, they will not even acknowledge your existence, but very frequently you'll have something or other going wrong, in the best case scenario it's a genuine technical problem that requires intervention by the cashier, but usually it's just someone who doesn't "get paid to be a cashier" that doesn't want to do the work. Personally, I think this is a completely ludicrous objection, but you can't even send them away to one of the other registers. So suddenly, you find all 4 stations going off with everyone wanting something while you're cashing out someone who can't be bothered to use the self check out himself. It doesn't help that our computers are terrible from a technical perspective, it's always the computer, the card reader, or the printer breaking or freezing, requiring you to intervene, a good 10 or more times per shift.
I think that this is a terrible labour model and I can't imagine what it achieves from a customer service perspective, either, if there's always a big line to use the same stations and always a traffic jam, be it due to genuine problems or entitlement issues. I make it a point of telling every customer who is dissatisfied with our level of coverage to leave a review letting us know that this is unacceptable, because this is the only way retail management will get it through their heads.
Self-checkouts work best, as an option for medium to low volume customers, with simple-scan products (no weighing required), and preferably, no over-sized items.
Some things simply aren't suited to self checkout from a practical perspective.
You can measure (and most retailers do) throughput at automated checkout vs a conventional cashier.
In grocery, by and large, orders over 20 items are more efficiently processed by cashiers vs customers. There are some stores now implementing a simple rule, if you use a cart, you go to a cashier, if you use a basket, you go to self-checkout.
In grocery, heavy and over-sized items (ie cases of 24 cans of pop) don't work well in the automated check out setting; and items that require one to know a code (produce) slow things down a lot, but looking up 1 or 2 items is not too big a deal, but 5 or more often is........
As a customer, I don't mind self check out, but knowing what I know about the grief I have to put up with every single day, it's absolutely not worth it. Innovation, my foot.
There are, of course, many other forms innovation can take in retail.
Electronic price tags are huge in grocery, vs having staff go around manually changing them.
A push is increasingly on, in grocery, to better track churn/BB/Expiry product so it can be moved, even at a discount before it must be tossed.
Trucks electronically meeting a loading dock can save some time (vs manual back up) (think of it it as parking assist for big-rigs); and ways are being studied to expedite off-loading as well.
One of the most labour intensive exercises can be stocking, I'm sure that's true for your store as well. Automating that, if you want something more display oriented than a Costco drop pallet here........plan.....is a challenge.
But there are ways being looked at for at least some products, particularly those that come in neat, standardized boxes.
Also under study are restocking machines that bring items from the back of house to the correct aisle w/o human intervention, but where humans will still do the last mile work.
An example of this already exists in a way, at Humber River Regional Hospital which has robots that deliver toilet paper and supplies to a given unit, from storage, but humans still take the rolls to their final destination.
Walmart already uses robots to check stock levels on shelves:
To me, when this sort of thing is done properly, it means greater product availability, less waste, fewer injuries to staff, fewer pricing errors and the savings can boost profit margin, boost pay for the remaining staff, and allow staff to spend more time on actual customer service (like expert advice)