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Tech change continues to impact retail employment

New figures from the British Retail Consortium’s Retail Employment Monitor have revealed that the total number of hours worked in retail in the UK was down 3.9% in the fourth quarter of 2017.

GENERAL MERCHANDISE

Tech change continues to impact retail employment

There was also a 2.9% fall in the total number of people employed. The BRC said the majority of retailers reported a reduction in both hours and employment.

This corresponds with BRC figures showing that growth in store sales dropped by 3.7% in the quarter with store numbers down 2.6%.

Helen Dickinson, BRC chief executive, said: “As the retail industry continues to transform at a rapid rate, the pace of job reductions is gathering steam.

“Full-time employees felt the biggest reductions as retailers are seeking greater flexibility in their workforces; a response to pressures felt from the diverging costs of labour versus technology. Indeed, there’s an ongoing shift towards wider retail investment in new or additional technology, that’s leading to a net reduction in jobs but is also creating new, better paid ones. The impact of automation on the industry therefore, is more prominent than ever.”

Some 64% of retailers polled for the monitor said they intended to keep staffing levels the same and just 7% said they would increase levels. Meanwhile, a higher number planned more reductions compared to a year ago.

Dickinson added: “Disruption from technology, compounded by pressure from property taxation, is also behind the fall in the number of retail stores in the final quarter of last year, which was particularly marked in non-food. These pressures to consolidate store portfolios and the workforce is likely to continue through 2018 as structural change gains momentum.

“Against this backdrop, our industry stands ready to work in partnership with government and stakeholders to upskill the retail workforce with the digital skills and confidence to work effectively with new technologies entering the workplace.”

 

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