British retail employment suffers record decline in Q3

Published on: 26th October 2017

Hours worked in UK retail fell by 4.2% compared with the same quarter a year ago. 

Figures released by the British Retail Consortium (BRC) show that the decline is an acceleration from a 3.3% fall in the second quarter, and the steepest fall since the BRC began measuring employment in 2008.

The total number of retail jobs decreased by 3% — another record. Full-time jobs are falling at a faster rate than part-time.

Helen Dickinson, CEO of the BRC, said in a statement: “The pace of job reductions in the retail industry is gathering steam. Behind this shrinking of the workforce is both a technological revolution in retail, which is reducing demand for labour, and Government policy, which is driving up the cost of employment. With both supply and demand pushing in the same direction, it’s little surprise that we’re seeing fewer people working in the industry.”

High Street chains are struggling to cope with the rise of online rivals such as Amazon, ASOS, and Boohoo, who are squeezing margins thanks to their lower overheads.

The global trend has led to what has been dubbed a “retail apocalypse” in the US, with thousands of stores facing closure. While things aren’t as bad in the UK, retailers are reducing their store footprints and cutting down on staff to cope with shifting consumer shopping habits.

However, store numbers increased by 2.4% in the third quarter as more smaller convenience stores were opened. 50% of BRC respondents also said they plan to increase hiring in the fourth quarter to cope with the Christmas quarter, traditionally the busiest time in retail.


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