BRC urges action as retail employment falls in Q4

  •    Author: Mike Jasfer

In Q4 2019, the total number of retail employees fell -1.8% YoY, a lower rate of decline when compared to Q4 2018 when it fell by -2.8%, reports the British Retail Consortium (BRC).
This is the 16th consecutive quarter of YoY decline in the retail workforce, and proof that transformation in the retail industry is ongoing, states the consortium. Full-time employment fell by -3.0%, while part-time employment fell by -1.2%.
When applied to the ONS Q4 2018 figure of 3,183,000 employees, the -1.8%  decline equates to 57,000 job losses since Q4 2018 (it should be noted that employment in Q4 is higher than other quarters due to the seasonal nature of retail). 
At +0.2%, store growth was the lowest since Q4 2016, and below the 2018 comparable of +2.3%. 
Around two-fifths (38%) of retailers plan on hiring fewer employees in the coming quarter, slightly above the 29% the previous year.
BRC chief executive Helen Dickinson OBE says: “Following figures showing 2019 was the worst year on record for retail sales growth, it comes as no surprise that retail shed the equivalent of 57,000 jobs compared to Q4 last year. There were many challenges in 2019 – businesses had to contend with the repeated risk of no-deal Brexit, a general election and the ongoing transformation of the industry, leading to weak consumer demand. As a result, employment has suffered in retail, the UK’s largest private sector employer. This matters – retail offers many people their first job, a range of flexible working options, and huge opportunities for progression. Retailers may be investing heavily in their workers, through training and apprenticeships, but more could be done. The current inflexibility in the Apprenticeship Levy system means that much essential training is not covered, limiting the opportunities for many working in the industry. 
“Moreover, it is worrying that the Government is standing by while tens of thousands of jobs are being lost. If the same was true in manufacturing or aviation, one can be sure that the Government would act. There are opportunities for action and the Government’s review of business rates could not come at a more crucial time. It is essential that they reform this broken system and rectify a tax that sees retail, which accounts for 5% of the economy, pay 25% of the burden.”

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