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Digital commerce revolution set to mean fewer, but better, jobs in retail: BRC

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The digital commerce revolution in retail will mean there are fewer, but better, jobs in the industry in years to come, a new British Retail Consortium report suggests.

By 2025 there could be 900,000 fewer jobs in the industry, suggests the BRC report, Retail 2020: Fewer but better jobs.

Currently, finds the BRC report, there are 3m people working in retail – down from a 3.2m high point in 2008. However, it says, the industry is dogged by low pay, as costs rise and prices fall in a market that is more competitive and more transparent, as an effect of the growth of digital. It also says that investment in digital – which now accounts for 15% of sales – has come at the expense of stores. Costs are set to rise still further with the advent of the national living wage and the apprenticeship levy, while a recent Deloitte study suggested that 60% of retail jobs are at a high risk of automation in the next 20 years.

All of this points to a future in which the “rate of change is now set to quicken,” according to the BRC report. It predicts that customers will benefit as pricing becomes even more competitive and the industry adapts to changing customer behaviour as they move towards digital commerce options. This will come at a cost to jobs, though those employees that still work in retail will have both better and better-paid jobs.

Helen Dickinson, BRC chief executive, said: “As an industry we expect the years ahead will see accelerating change. Retailers will develop better propositions and compete harder across an increasing range of business models from modern multichannel formats through to discounters and online businesses.”

The report comes days after John Lewis announced its own new IT apprenticeship scheme, which will offer eight students the chance to train in the department store’s head office IT team as they progress towards a BSc qualification at Queen Mary University London in a paid programme. The scheme is supported by The Tech Partnership.

Paul Coby, IT director at John Lewis, said: “This programme is a great alternative to university and successful applicants will receive transferable workplace skills in addition to a degree education, and I hope that we will find some future leaders in IT via this scheme.”

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