UK retail sector loses 70,000 jobs

Around 70,000 jobs were lost in the retail industry at the end of last year, with Christmas failing to halt the decline in employment, according to a report.

Customers wait with their purchases outside Primark's flagship store on Oxford Street. Picture: Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images
Customers wait with their purchases outside Primark's flagship store on Oxford Street. Picture: Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images

The number of employees in the sector fell by 2.2 per cent in the final quarter of last year compared with the same period in 2017, said the British Retail Consortium (BRC). Hours were also reduced for full- and part-time contracts.

Almost a third of retailers plan to cut staff numbers in the next few months, a similar number to a year ago, said the report.

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Helen Dickinson, chief executive of the BRC, said: “The retail industry is undergoing a profound change and the latest employment data underpins those trends. Technology is changing both the way consumers shop but also the types of jobs that exist in retail.

“While we expect the number of frontline staff to fall over the next decade, there will be many new jobs created in areas such as digital marketing and AI [artificial intelligence].

“However, this transformation comes at a cost for retailers, who are already weighed down by the increasing costs of public policy, from sky high business rates to rising minimum wage.”