Jan 23, 2020
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Retail sheds 57,000 jobs says BRC

Jan 23, 2020

The number of retail employees in the UK fell by 1.8% in the fourth quarter of 2019, compared with the same period in the prior year, according to the BRC Retail Employment Monitor.

When applied to ONS figures, this equates to 57,000 job losses in 12 months. But the rate of decline was lower in Q4 2019 when compared to the same quarter in 2018, when employment fell by 2.8%. Yet it was the 16th consecutive quarter of year-on-year decline in the retail workforce, proof of the challenges that continue to exist in the UK retail industry.

Helen Dickinson, chief executive of the British Retail Consortium, said: “Following figures showing 2019 was the worst year on record for retail sales growth, it comes as no surprise that retail shed the equivalent of 57,000 jobs compared to Q4 last year. 

“There were many challenges in 2019: businesses had to contend with the repeated risk of no-deal Brexit, a general election and the ongoing transformation of the industry, leading to weak consumer demand. As a result, employment has suffered in retail, the UK’s largest private sector employer. This matters - retail offers many people their first job, a range of flexible working options, and huge opportunities for progression.”

According to the organisation, 38% of retailers planned on hiring fewer employees in the coming quarter, compared with 29% the previous year. Only 8% indicated plans to increase staff.

“Retailers may be investing heavily in their workers, through training and apprenticeships, but more could be done. The current inflexibility in the Apprenticeship Levy system means that much essential training is not covered, limiting the opportunities for many working in the industry,” Dickinson continued.

“Moreover, it is worrying that the Government is standing by while tens of thousands of jobs are being lost. If the same was true in manufacturing or aviation, one can be sure that the Government would act.”

The British Retail Consortium called on the Government to reform the ‘broken’ business rates system, an opinion that has been voiced by many industry experts amid tough times for UK retail.

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