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Retailers ramp up redundancies

Many more retail jobs are at risk on the UK high street as cost-cutting amid tough trading conditions and an evolving retail landscape bites, headhunters have warned.

In the latest wave of retail job cuts Debenhams is expected make up to 60 roles redundant at its London head office and Taunton support centre, as Drapers exclusively revealed last week. Meanwhile, Shop Direct is consulting with 225 members of staff at its head office Liverpool. It expects to make fewer than 100 redundancies.

“There will definitely be more retail redundancies in 2019 and over the next few years,” Richard Hollister, managing director of retail recruitment agency Retail Executives, said. “Most companies will be cutting costs in head offices. Any [business] would be silly not to.”

Shelley Pinto, managing director of TRP Recruitment, agreed: “There will be many more redundancies happening every day across the field. Middle-level and mainstream high street stores will continue to suffer because customers know they can buy cheaper online.”

Pinto warned that retailers and suppliers are “cutting it too thin”: “They want a certain calibre of candidate when instead they need to retrain their staff in good-quality service to prevent any more job losses. Stores need to have great products and exceptional customer service to survive.”

AquaRetail managing director Mary Anderson-Ford said that “cost cutting is currently the main focus on the high street”: “There will be many more redundancies announced over the next year, absolutely.

“There is a pattern of merchandisers lowering headcounts by having one person doing the core role. This is only a short-term solution and not the right thing to do, as roles will be filled with generalists and not specialists. What seems like an expense is actually an investment.”

Lucy Harris, partner at executive search firm Clarity, said there are two main reasons behind the current wave of retail redundancies: “In some cases, they are necessary to reduce costs as margins are increasingly squeezed.

“Second, businesses are undergoing right-sizing exercises, on both a local and a global basis. Companies are pulling together functions under fewer bigger leaders. For example, retailers may choose to run retail, digital and wholesale channels under one chief channel officer, rather than employing three directors.

“The retail industry is evolving. Organisational models need modernising and we have to expect change. It’s going to happen.”



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