Written by: Keith Tully
Reviewed: Thursday 24th January, 2019
There were an estimated 70,000 jobs lost across the UK’s retail sector in 2018 during what was an extremely testing time for businesses within the industry.
A growing preference for online shopping is contributing towards declining footfalls at traditional high street stores and helping to make it increasingly difficult for many retailers to grow their revenues and profit levels.
Even a rise in consumer spending during the pre-Christmas period failed to stem the flow of jobs out of the retail sector in recent weeks, according to the latest assessments of the British Retail Consortium (BRC).
The BRC has said that it expects to see the number of people employed by retailers fall over the course of the next 10 years but has also expressed optimism that there will be new jobs created as retailers adapt to and hone their use of emerging technologies.
“The retail industry is undergoing a profound change and the latest employment data underpins those trends,” commented Helen Dickinson, chief executive of the BRC.
“Technology is changing both the way consumers shop but also the types of jobs that exist in retail,” she said.
“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.”
An inability to consistently grow sales has been a fundamental headache for a wide range of retailers in recent quarters but the BRC has also highlighted a number of public policy issues that have also been damaging to the financial prospects of operators in the sector.
Specifically, Ms Dickinson points to “sky high business rates” and “rising minimum wage” stipulations as being policies that are having the effect of weighing down UK retailers.
A total of 2.2 per cent of jobs are believed to have been shed by retailers across the country over the course of 2018.
Well-known brands including Toys R Us, Maplin and House of Fraser all collapsed into administration last year, although the latter was subsequently rescued in a buyout deal led by Mike Ashely, the retail tycoon and owner of Sports Direct.
Mr Ashley is also understood to be interested in buying the entertainment retailer HMV, which had around 2,000 employees when it entered administration for a second time shortly after Christmas.