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UK retail loses 70,000 jobs in final months of 2018

By Huw Hughes

24 Jan 2019


Last year proved difficult for the struggling UK high street, with new figures from the British Retail Consortium (BRC) revealing that some 70,000 jobs were lost in the UK retail sector in the final months of 2018, with the busy winter months doing little to help a decline in staff demand.

The number of employees working in retail was down 2.2 percent in the final quarter of last year, compared to the same period in 2017, with companies battling a backdrop of declining consumer spend and high street footfall, increasing numbers of shoppers flocking to online and continued Brexit uncertainty.

Total hours fell by 2.8 percent, with full time hours down by 2.9 percent compared to the same period in 2017 - a slower decline than seen in the last quarter when it declined by 4.2 percent. Part-time hours declined by 2.8 percent compared to the same period in 2017.

The BRC also revealed that 29 percent of retailers planned to reduce staff in the coming quarter, while more retailers planned to increase their labour requirements compared to the previous year. The number of those planning on keeping staff levels decreased slightly.

Struggling high street continues to lose jobs

Commenting on the figures in a statement, BRC chief executive, Helen Dickinson, said: “The retail industry is undergoing a profound change and the latest employment data underpins those trends.

“Technology is changing both the way consumers shop, but also the types of jobs that exist in retail. While we expect the number of frontline staff to fall over the next decade, there will many new jobs created in areas such as digital marketing and AI.

“However, this transformation comes at a cost for retailers, who are already weighed down by the increasing costs of public policy, from sky high business rates to rising minimum wage. To support this investment in the future of retail, Government needs to play its part, reforming the broken business rates system to ensure it is fit for the 21st century.”

Photo credit: Pixabay