Woe besets bricks & mortar sector as retail jobs drop – BRC


The number of retail employees has fallen for the sixteenth consecutive quarter as bricks and mortar shops continue to struggle and the sector increasingly evolves.

Figures from the British Retail Consortium (BRC) reveal that in Q4 2019, the total number of retail employees fell by 1.8% year on year for the sixteenth consecutive quarter.

When applied to ONS employment figures, this 1.8% decline equates to 57,000 job losses in the retail sector since Q4 2018. However, employment in Q4 is typically higher than others due the Christmas trading period.

Store growth, meanwhile, has experience a 0.2% decline – the lowest since Q4 2016 – as the high street continues to struggle against the e-tail sector.

The decline looks sent to continue going forward with the BRC finding that 38% of retails planned on hiring fewer employees in the coming quarter. This compares to 29% in the previous year.

Only 8% of retailers indicated plans to bolster their staff in the coming quarter compared with 14% for Q4 2018.

“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,” said BRC Chief Executive, Helen Dickinson.

“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. 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.

“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.

“There are opportunities for action and the Government’s review of business rates could not come at a more crucial time. It is essential that they reform this broken system and rectify a tax that sees retail, which accounts for 5% of the economy, pay 25% of the burden.”