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June 28, 2022

Filings buzz in retail: 586% increase in robotics mentions in Q1 of 2022

We've analysed companies' annual reports and other filings to see which key issues are receiving the most attention.

By Data Journalism Team

Mentions of robotics within the filings of companies in the retail sector rose 586% between the final quarter of 2021 and the first quarter of 2022.

In total, the frequency of sentences related to robotics between April 2021 and March 2022 was 375% higher than in 2016 when GlobalData, from whom our data for this article is taken, first began to track the key issues referred to in company filings.

When retail companies publish annual and quarterly reports, ESG reports and other filings, GlobalData analyses the text and identifies individual sentences that relate to disruptive forces facing companies in the coming years. Robotics is one of these topics - companies that excel and invest in these areas are thought to be better prepared for the future business landscape and better equipped to survive unforeseen challenges.

To assess whether robotics is featuring more in the summaries and strategies of retail companies, two measures were calculated. Firstly, we looked at the percentage of companies which have mentioned robotics at least once in filings during the past twelve months - this was 18% compared to 8% in 2016. Secondly, we calculated the percentage of total analysed sentences that referred to robotics.

Of the 10 biggest employers in the retail sector, JD was the company which referred to robotics the most between April 2021 and March 2022. GlobalData identified eight robotics-related sentences in the China-based company's filings - 0.14% of all sentences. Kroger mentioned robotics the second most - the issue was referred to in 0.11% of sentences in the company's filings. Other top employers with high robotics mentions included Ahold Delhaize, Walmart and Magnit.

Across all retail companies the filing published in the first quarter of 2022 which exhibited the greatest focus on robotics came from Ocado. Of the document's 5,228 sentences, 21 (0.4%) referred to robotics.

This analysis provides an approximate indication of which companies are focusing on robotics and how important the issue is considered within the retail sector, but it also has limitations and should be interpreted carefully. For example, a company mentioning robotics more regularly is not necessarily proof that they are utilising new techniques or prioritising the issue, nor does it indicate whether the company's ventures into robotics have been successes or failures.

In the last quarter, retail companies based in Western Europe were most likely to mention robotics with 0.05% of sentences in company filings referring to the issue. In contrast, companies with their headquarters in South America mentioned robotics in just 0.01% of sentences.

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