Fall in retail employment “likely to endure”

The number of people working in the retail industry has fallen, according to the latest data from the British Retail Consortium (BRC).

Q2 2019 represents the 14th consecutive quarter of year-on-year decline in the retail workforce, evidence that the transformation of the industry continues to play out in earnest, the BRC said.

Year-on-year, the total number of employees fell by 2.3 per cent in Q2, with full-time employment seeing a higher reduction (3.0 per cent).

Stores growth slowed down to 1.7 per cent, compared to Q1 growth of 2.3 per cent. Both food and non-food retailers added stores.

The BRC reported that the industry is seeing the automation of some retail jobs and “changing shopping behaviours”, so much so that “the store is increasingly serving a different role, centred more around customer experience and offering social activities, for which fewer staff is needed”. 

30 per cent of retailers indicated plans to increase staff in the coming quarter, above the comparable figure of 25 per cent last year. Some retailers stated that as the peak trading period of the year, Black Friday and Christmas, approaches, they plan on increasing their part-time workforce.

“Retail is undergoing a period of profound transformation driven by changing consumer behaviours and innovative technologies,” said Helen Dickinson OBE, Chief Executive of the British Retail Consortium.

“As these structural changes unfold, we have seen retail employment falling across the country, with a 2.3 per cent drop as compared with the previous year; this is equivalent to around 72,000 jobs being lost.

“Such declines are likely to endure, hastened by Government policies that continue to add costs to an industry already under immense pressures.

“With a new Prime Minister and cabinet in place, there is a clear opportunity to rethink the high street strategy. Business rates pose an unsustainable burden on shops and jobs, and we urge the Government to provide immediate relief to retailers large and small in order to facilitate much needed investment in the digital and physical offerings they provide to their customers.”