Retail employment up 0.6% despite big drop in shop numbers
The BRC-Bond Pearce Retail Employment Monitor showed that the number of shops fell 3.6% in the quarter which was biggest drop since the Monitor started in October 2008.
In December, there were 573 fewer stores in the sample compared with last year. Half of the retailers surveyed suggested that they would decrease staffing levels in the first quarter of 2013 compared with just a third at the same time last year.
Helen Dickinson, BRC director general, said: "The fact that total employment edged up during this quarter, driven by part-time workers, is a shaft of light against an otherwise challenging backdrop. It shows that, despite relentlessly tough times, retailers are continuing to invest in people and support job creation as much as they can.
"But the record drop in store numbers is stark evidence that this investment should not be taken for granted. We're by no means out of the woods yet - given the administrations of recent weeks, the next quarter's figures are likely to make difficult reading.
"Half our sample intend to decrease staffing levels during the first quarter of this year and only 4% plan to increase them. This trend is to be expected at this time of year due to reductions in temporary seasonal staff, but the rate is higher compared with last year and further highlights testing times still to come."
Christina Tolvas-Vincent, head of retail employment at business law firm Bond Pearce, added: "After a lacklustre Christmas, the New Year has started badly for retailers; well publicised failures such as HMV, Jessops and Blockbusters have yet again placed the spotlight on the struggling high street. This will have an even greater impact on store numbers that are already falling at the fastest rate for over four years.
"With economists claiming that more companies will fail before the UK economy can begin to recover, retailers must continue to adapt to the harsh market conditions and hope that their strategies for survival, and even growth, will stand them in good stead."
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