Oct 25, 2019
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UK retail lost 85k jobs in last year, fashion is key segment to suffer

Oct 25, 2019

UK retailers under pressure from weak consumer demand and Brexit uncertainty axed 85,000 jobs in the past year.

Sandra Halliday

The number of retail employees fell by 2.8% in the third quarter of the year compared to the same period in 2018, marking the 15th consecutive quarter of year-on-year decline, according to the British Retail Consortium.

The job losses are a further sign of a structural shift in the retail sector, with retailers forced to adapt to the switch to online shopping and the rise of the experience economy to survive.

The fashion sector was responsible for many of the job cuts. Karen Millen and Coast closed all 32 stores at the end of September to relaunch as online-only brands, leading to the loss of hundreds of jobs, while other national chains including Mothercare, New Look, Marks & Spencer and House of Fraser are also closing stores across the UK.

Meanwhile, Bonmarché fell into administration last week, putting nearly 3,000 jobs at risk.

Other companies are launching cost-cutting plans to ensure their profitability and offset the burden caused by the rise in business rates and increases to the apprenticeship levy and minimum wage.

“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,” said Helen Dickinson, chief executive of the British Retail Consortium.

“The Government should enact policies that enable retailers to invest more in the millions of people who choose to build their careers in retail. In order to promote innovation, training and productivity, Government must reform both the broken business rates system, and the inflexibilities of the apprenticeship levy. This will allow retailers to focus on enhancing their digital and physical offerings for customers, support the development of employees and ensure high streets remain diverse and exciting places for everyone.”

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