Almost 1 million retail jobs could be lost in the next decade as high streets struggle with the impact of digital and spiralling costs.
The British Retail Consortium (BRC) has warned that there could be as many as 900,000 fewer jobs in the industry by 2025 as the “rate of change” in retail quickens.
The industry body said the digital revolution will continue to reshape the retail industry and change customer shopping habits, while the rising cost of labour, falling costs of technology and more property leases coming up for renewal will lead to stores closing and jobs being axed.
However the BRC, which has previously warned that the new national living wage, the apprenticeship levy and rising business rates will add as much as £14bn to retailers’ bills over the next four years, said that the jobs that do remain in retail will be “more productive and higher earning”.
The predictions come as part of a report revealed by the BRC this morning, examining how the retail landscape is set to change in the coming years.
The BRC said that store closures would “exacerbate” the impact on unemployment rates in “already fragile communities”. It added that low paid staff were in the most vulnerable position, while smaller businesses were also likely to be “disproportionately affected” by the evolution of the industry.
BRC bosses called on the Government to “mitigate the impact” on jobs by reforming business rates, strengthening and clarifying the remit of the Low Pay Commission surrounding the national living wage and employing more discretion over how and where cash from the apprenticeship levy is spent.
BRC chief executive Helen Dickinson said: “The key conclusions of today’s report are not surprising – there will be a further contraction in retail space and a reduction in the number of people employed in retail.
“Individual retailers will find their own paths to 2020 and beyond but from an industry perspective, we hope to see technology and competition resulting in better experiences for the customer and better jobs for those working in retail.
“From a Government perspective the more significant insights in this report lie in where and how these changes may happen and the differential impact they are likely to have on people and places across the country and we would like to work with the Government to manage the impact of the changes on the most vulnerable.”
BRC and John Lewis Partnership chairman Sir Charlie Mayfield added: “What matters is who and where will be affected most by all this change. These are the valleys to cross and the path through them needs to be chartered with care.
“The report reaches some positive conclusions. Customers will get better choice, better value, more convenience and more personalisation.
“Retailing will be more productive, powered by better jobs that offer the chance to develop a wide array of skills and greater earnings – not because of the national living wage, but because differentiation between competing retailers will depend on it.”