As Retail Week launches its Backing UK Retail campaign, grocers including Sainsbury's, Asda, Tesco and Morrisons are likely to play a huge part in staff recruitment.
The Backing UK Retail campaign aims to demonstrate how important retail is to the economy. And the grocers will form a key part of this, as they provide shining examples of how retail contributes to society.
Grocers, while of course not exempt from a recession, fair better than other retailers because everyone still needs to eat. And for that reason, the majority of grocers are still showing positive growth – although for some this has slowed.
Yesterday Sainsbury’s – the first of the big grocers to report this year – delivered its best ever Christmas with like-for-like sales, excluding petrol, up 4.5 per cent. This result reflects boss Justin King’s proficient steering of the ship with investments such as its Switch and Save campaign, but it also gives a welcome boost to the economy.
King said he would create jobs this year. The grocer took on 21,000 temporary workers over the Christmas period instead of the 12,000 it intended. Around 2,000 of those will be kept on and Sainsbury’s will also create a further 3,000 jobs from new store openings this year.
The other grocers are also likely to follow suit. Tesco is due to report Christmas trading next Tuesday and will likely give an idea of staff recruitment, but if last year was anything to go by, it will be good news for the industry. For its year to February 2009, the grocer said it would create 30,000 jobs across the group with between 25 and 33 per cent of that being in the UK.
Asda also reported a sterling Christmas and will no doubt be recruiting with store openings this year. Meanwhile, rival Morrisons is unlikely to halt its recruitment after agreeing a deal late last year to buy 38 Co-op and Somerfield stores.
The same can also be said of the smaller grocers. The hard discounters Aldi and Lidl are fighting over themselves for space and while planning regulations may prevent Aldi opening a store a week as it so famously promised last year, it will do all it can to open as many as possible.
Frozen food chain Iceland is also among those expanding this year. It snapped up around 50 of the former Woolworths stores as it continues to deliver great results. Clearly the antics of its celebrity face Kerry Katona didn’t affect business as, according to Nielsen, it stormed ahead of market averages in the 12 weeks to December 27, with sales growth in excess of 14 per cent.
Staff recruitment is only one part of why retail is important to the economy, but with unemployment now one of the biggest worries people in the UK have, it is essential that we celebrate what those companies, such as Sainsbury’s, are doing.