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Retail jobs fell by 14,000 in the Christmas quarter, BRC analysis suggests

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The number of people employed in retail in the Christmas quarter of 2022 was 14,000 lower than the previous year, official figures suggest.

There were 3.123mn retail jobs in the fourth quarter of last year, according to British Retail Consortium (BRC) analysis of ONS Labour Market figures out today. That’s down from 3.137mn a year earlier.

Commenting, Helen Dickinson, BRC chief executive, says: “Low consumer confidence and falling sales volumes meant many retailers were more cautious in hiring additional workers in the run up to Christmas. This was compounded by the need to keep operational costs – and therefore prices – down during the cost of living squeeze. This has contributed to the lowest 4Q average retail jobs numbers in over a decade. Not all retail roles have been affected, as ongoing digital transformation has led to the creation of many new well-paid and exciting jobs.

“However, this transformation is held back by the inflexible Apprenticeship Levy system that restricts the breadth of training that employers can offer. The Chancellor must use the Budget to reform the Levy and unlock business investment in upskilling employees and creating thousands of more apprenticeship opportunities across the country. With Levy reform, retailers can equip itself with a workforce with skills fit for the future, leading to better wages, increased productivity, and stronger economic growth.”

The trend is set to continue, according to Centre for Retail Research figures released last month which found that by February 20 retail job losses totalling 14,874 jobs had already been announced, along with the closure of 675 stores. At the time, Professor Joshua Bamfield, of the Centre for Retail Research, predicted that the “process of rationalisation will continue at pace as retailers continue to reduce their cost base. We are unlikely to see any respite in job losses in 2023 after a brutal start to the year.”

Commenting on today’s figures, Scandit VP sales EMEA Nick Bareham says: “The lack of available jobs revealed today, compounded by the thousand of jobs that have already been cut this year, cements what retail employees have long known: the industry is understaffed and overworked. With firms understandably cautious about making hires during a period of economic turbulence, it’s imperative that frontline retail teams get the support they need if they’re expected to deliver consistent results for the business.

“Let’s be frank: some daily tasks in retail are tedious and repetitive, leading to potentially costly errors and demoralised staff. It doesn’t need to be this way. Supporting hard-working retail associates doesn’t necessarily mean huge investment in new hardware or systems, as a smart data capture strategy allows employers to shift some of these tedious tasks to technology.” 

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