News | Published October 24 2019

Government urged to reform high street policy after large job loss estimates

The British Retail Consortium has called for a government shake-up of its high street policies after estimating that 85,000 retail sector jobs have been lost in the past year.

The BRC's estimate came after official ONS figures revealed that the number of retail employees in the third quarter came down by 2.8 per cent on the previous year, a 15th consecutive quarter of decline in retail jobs.

Full-time retail positions are declining by 4.5 per cent annually, accompanied by a 1.5 per cent fall in part-time jobs in the sector.

The BRC’s head, Helen Dickinson, said that business rates and the apprenticeship levy are due an overhaul, which will give retailers the leeway to focus on adapting to changing consumer habits and increasing their online outreach.

She also accused the government of being “muted” in its response to the retail industry’s woes compared to those of other sectors.

Dickinson said: "Weak consumer demand and Brexit uncertainty continue to put pressure on retailers already focused on delivering the transformation taking place in the industry.

"While MPs rail against job losses in manufacturing, their response to larger losses in retail has remained muted.

“The government should enact policies that enable retailers to invest more in the millions of people who choose to build their careers in retail.”

The High Street has been hit with more closures in 2019, with the proportion of empty shop units up to 10.3 per cent as of July 2019, the highest levels seen since January 2015 according to a survey carried out by the BRC and Springboard.

Even though the figures come ahead of the "golden" fourth quarter, which includes the revenue brought in by the Christmas season, the respite may only be temporary.

Nevertheless, 62 per cent of retailers that the BRC interviewed said that they would look to bolster their ranks by taking on more staff ahead of the fourth quarter, a higher margin than the 43 per cent recorded in 2018.

The BRC said: "We expect the long-term decline in employment to continue due to a combined effect of the on-going structural change, weak consumer spending and fierce competition in the industry.”

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Authored by

Scott Challinor
Business Editor
October 24 2019

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