Retail jobs slump hits two-year low

Retail job numbers are on the slide as businesses shut stores in the face of surging online demand.
According to new figures from the British Retail Consortium and Bond Dickinson the equivalent number of full-time jobs fell by 0.9% in the first quarter of 2016 compared with the same period last year. This is the sharpest decline in retail employment since the third quarter of 2014.
This was partly the result of the number of retail outlets falling by 0.5% in the same period. That was worse than the 0.3% fall recorded in the last quarter of 2015.
Food retailers drove the overall decrease in the number of stores.
“These figures confirm that the rate of change within retail is quickening as the digital revolution reshapes the industry, more property leases come up for renewal and the cost of labour goes up, while the cost of technology goes down,” said Helen Dickinson, chief executive of the British Retail Consortium. “Our recent Retail 2020 report looks at these factors in detail and shows that they could result in as many as 900,000 fewer jobs in retail by 2025, but those that remain will be more productive and higher earning. These numbers seem to suggest that we have arrived at the beginning of this predicted downward trend. It is now for the retail industry, politicians and policymakers to come together to ensure that this change is well managed in order to mitigate its impact on vulnerable communities and economically deprived areas.”
Christina Tolvas-Vincent, head of Retail Employment at Bond Dickinson, added: “While the UK unemployment rate continues to fall, the retail sector is still undergoing a challenging time. The vast majority of retailers intend to keep staffing levels unchanged over the next quarter, revealing a sense of uncertainty which could be attributable to June’s EU referendum. It is also likely that the recently implemented National Living Wage will be having an effect on the industry as one of the biggest employers in the UK.”