Almost 60,000 Retail Jobs Lost in Last Quarter of 2019


January 2020

Almost 60,000 Retail Jobs Lost in Last Quarter of 2019

Nearly 60,000 jobs were lost in the UK retail sector during the last three months of 2019 in another tough year for the high street, according to a report.

Recent figures from the British Retail Consortium (BRC) has revealed around 57,000 jobs were lost in the retail sector over the fourth quarter of last year. The total number of retail employees in dropped by 1.8% compared to Q4 2018, although this is not as much as the 2.8% drop recorded in 2018 compared to the previous year. But the number of retail workers in the UK has now been falling for sixteen quarters in a row.

More job losses came from full-time roles than part-time. There was a 3% drop in full-time retail employment during Q4 2018 compared to a 1.2% decline in part-time jobs.

These latest figures are a further blow to the high street after it was revealed that 2019 was the worst year on record for retail sales, with total sales falling for the first time since 1995.

“Following figures showing 2019 was the worst year on record for retail sales growth, it comes as no surprise that retail shed the equivalent of 57,000 jobs compared to Q4 last year,” said Helen Dickinson, chief executive of the BRC.

“There were many challenges in 2019: businesses had to contend with the repeated risk of no deal Brexit, a general election and the ongoing transformation of the industry, leading to weak consumer demand. As a result, employment has suffered in retail, the UK’s largest private sector employer.

“This matters – retail offers many people their first job, a range of flexible working options, and huge opportunities for progression. Retailers may be investing heavily in their workers, through training and apprenticeships, but more could be done.

“The current inflexibility in the Apprenticeship Levy system means that much essential training is not covered, limiting the opportunities for many working in the industry.

“Moreover, it is worrying that the government is standing by while tens of thousands of jobs are being lost. If the same was true in manufacturing or aviation, one can be sure that the government would act.

“There are opportunities for action and the government’s review of business rates could not come at a more crucial time. It is essential that they reform this broken system and rectify a tax that sees retail, which accounts for 5% of the economy, pay 25% of the burden.”

A spokesperson for the government said: “We recognise retail has had a challenging year and continue to work with the sector to identify pressures and steps to address them.

“This includes the delivery of the £1bn Future High Streets Fund to support local areas in England to renew high streets and our review into business rates, as well as cutting business rates for small retailers by a third this year.”