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Retail employment evades UK uplift

The retail industry has seen employment levels take a year-on-year downturn of 2.1% for the first quarter of 2019, having been faced with “unprecedented change in response to new technologies and changing customer behaviour”.

Of the retailers surveyed, 17% indicated plans to reduce staff in the coming quarter, while 67% seek to leave their staff numbers unchanged, data from the British Retail Consortium retail employment monitor shows.

However, the wider UK economy is experiencing the highest levels of employment since ONS records began.

At an industry level, ONS figures tell the same story. Retail employment declined 2.1% in the final quarter of last year and by 2.9% in the third quarter.

Total employment hours were down 2.7% year on year in the first quarter of 2019.

Store growth was steady at 2.3% for the same period, but the number of local units is in decline in the UK.

Chief executive of the BRC Helen Dickinson said: “Yet again, the number of retail jobs fell during the first quarter of this year, with a 2.4% year on year fall in employees; this would be equivalent to losing 74,400 people across the retail industry. While the number of stores rose, this was mainly driven by an increase in small-format stores, with many larger stores closing – resulting in a net job loss. And more jobs are likely to disappear unless there is a shift in government policies. 

“Retail is undergoing a period of unprecedented change in response to new technologies and changing consumer behaviour. The investment required to successfully navigate this transformation is being held back by the rising cost of public policy. Over three million people rely directly on the retail sector for jobs, with many more working throughout the supply chain. Yet spiralling business costs pose a grave threat to these jobs – as recent administrations, CVAs, and store closures show.”

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