BRC says concerns grow for retail labour market

People crowd Oxford Street, one the main shopping streets in central London on December 14, 2013, with only two weekends to go until Christmas. AFP PHOTO/JUSTIN TALLIS

The retail industry saw a near one percent fall in the level of full-time equivalent employment in the first quarter of this year compared with the same period last year.

According to the British Retail Consortium (BRC), the equivalent number of full-time jobs fell by 0.9% in the first quarter of 2016. This is the sharpest decline in retail employment since the third quarter of 2014.

In the first quarter of 2016, the number of outlets also fell by 0.5% compared with the same quarter a year ago. This is lower than the 0.3% fall seen in Q4 2015. Food retailers drove the overall decrease in the number of stores.

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However, the equivalent number of full-time employees in non-food retail grew in the first quarter of 2016.

Helen Dickinson OBE, chief executive, British Retail Consortium, comments: “The start of 2016 registered the biggest dip across the quarter with 1.2 percent fewer full-time equivalent jobs in January than in January 2015. This also sits alongside a continued decline in store numbers with retailers reporting 0.5 percent fewer shops than existed a year ago.

“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. 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. Today’s employment 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 policy makers to come together to ensure that this change is well managed in order to mitigate its impact on vulnerable communities and economically deprived areas.”

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