The British Retail Consortium has stated that it is concerned for the retail employment market after new figures show that the equivalent number of full-time jobs in retail fell by 0.9 percent in the first quarter of 2016 compared with the same period last year.

The data released by the British Retail Consortium and business law firm Bond Dickinson in their quarterly Retail Employment Monitor show that this was the sharpest decline in retail employment since the third quarter of 2014.

In the first quarter of 2016, the number of outlets fell by 0.5 percent compared with the same quarter a year ago. This is lower than the 0.3 percent fall seen in fourth quarter of 2015, with food retailers driving the overall decrease in the number of stores.

British Retail Consortium chief executive Helen Dickinson said: “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.”

While food retailers continued to be the most affected, the equivalent number of full-time employees in non-food retail grew in the quarter.

Bond Dickinson head of retail employment, Christina Tolvas-Vincent, added: “While the UK unemployment rate continues to fall, the retail sector is still undergoing a challenging time. Food retailers continue to be most affected, with the fall in full-time employees in the food sector driving the slight overall decline.

“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.”

 

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