- Hours worked in UK retail fell by 4.2% in the third quarter, retail jobs shrunk by 3%.
- It’s the steepest decline since the monitor began in 2008.
- ‘A technological revolution in retail’ and government policy driving the decline.
LONDON — British retail employment suffered a record decline in the third quarter of 2017.
Hours worked in UK retail fell by 4.2% compared with the same quarter a year ago, according to the British Retail Consortium (BRC). 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 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.
A senior executive at a well-known British retailer told Business Insider: “When you’re a big league retailer, you’re spending all your time keeping the shops open and keeping stock on the shelves. Then you have new players opening up all the time and taking slices of your business. Individually it’s not a big problem but they add up.”
Richard Hyman, an independent retail analyst, told Business Insider: “Tech is changing the economic shape of the industry for ever. Retail is becoming a gradually less profitable industry.
“Tech helps to strip people out of the equation and it is no surprise to see rising job losses across the industry. This poses a massive challenge to retailers. Added value in retail is delivered through people and however much their PR departments might dress it otherwise, we are seeing a progressive diminution of customer service across the sector.”
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, it’s not all doom and gloom. 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.