‘Big changes’ in retail drive fall in full-time jobs

The number of people employed full-time in retail fell in the fourth quarter of 2016, reflecting “big structural changes” in the industry, new figures have revealed.

The BRC Retail Employment Monitor found that for the period covering October 1 to December 31, full-time retail employment fell by three per cent, compared with the same period a year ago.

Food retailers drove the decline, with the number of full-time hours falling sharply.

All three months in the quarter posted a decline in full-time employment, with December seeing the sharpest fall at 4.6 per cent, despite the Christmas period. November saw a decline of 2.9 per cent and October posted a 1.6 per cent fall.

However, in Q4, the number of retail outlets increased by 1.5 per cent, compared with the same quarter of 2015. The increase in store numbers was driven by non-food retailers.

British Retail Consortium chief executive Helen Dickinson said: “While the end of the year remains the busiest time for workers in retail, today’s figures are consistent with the long-term trend of retailers reducing the number of hours being worked to adjust to big structural changes in the industry. In the last quarter, seasonal overtime was scaled back much more than in previous years, reflecting the relative fall in importance of Boxing Day relative to pre-Christmas spend and Black Friday. We also saw some retailers reduce temporary seasonal staffing levels earlier than in previous years.

“Those at the forefront of the industry are continuing to adapt to the advance of the digital revolution by experimenting with new stores and offerings, driving a 1.5 per cent increase in the number of outlets compared with a year ago. However, we don’t expect to see a long-term trend in rising store numbers.

“Against the backdrop of cost pressures, fierce competition between retailers, evolving customer needs, and the lightning expansion of digital technology, many retailers are likely to continue re-examining staffing levels to continue adapting.”