Today, as the British Retail Consortium (BRC) laid out its vision for the future of work and jobs in the sector, the latest Office for National Statistics inflation figures brought potentially bad news for retailers.
The UK inflation rate rose last month to 2.7% from 2.3% in March.
While the increase was largely driven by higher air fares in April, distorted by the late timing of Easter, the cost of clothing jumping to the highest level for six years will worry some.
If inflation continues to rise while real wages fall, this could lead, the Bank of England has warned, to a tightening of the domestic purse strings and a consumer spending squeeze.
BRC Retail 2020
Meanwhile, retail leaders discussed ways to improve jobs in the retail industry.
The BRC’s illuminating Retail 2020 conference delved into issues of flexibility, new skill requirements, progression and what businesses can do to facilitate change for the better.
However, in a panel discussion, Carpetright boss Wilf Walsh and Dreams boss Mike Logue both argued that the “archaic” business rates system, on top of a cocktail of other costs, was making it increasingly difficult for traditional retailers to support staff in the way they would like.
While Rome wasn’t built in a day, it is encouraging to see the issue of work and jobs top the agenda and the likes of Dixons Carphone, John Lewis and Tesco signing up to a scheme by Timewise to encourage career progression for part-time workers.
Asos and Waitrose
Elsewhere in the news, fashion etailer Asos was hit by another major fire at its warehouse in Germany, and Waitrose has appointed Post Office commercial director Martin George as its interim customer director, replacing Rupert Thomas.
Quote of the day
“The ‘people agenda’ is front and centre of the retail industry. Retailers are ready to work with the next Government to ensure the retail jobs of the future are as attractive, accessible and as well-remunerated as possible. Commitments to increase flexibility to the apprenticeship levy while investing in lifelong education will be positively received.”
BRC chief executive Helen Dickinson responding to the Labour party’s manifesto
Today in numbers
The value of stock damaged by a fire at Asos’ European warehouse in Berlin
The amount John Lewis sales were up by in the week to May 13
Look out for our video with new Dobbies boss Nicholas Marshall.
Emily Hardy, senior reporter