The number of full-time jobs in the retail industry fell for the third consecutive quarter during the three months to September.

Full-time equivalent employment fell by 3% year-on-year, according to the latest figures from the British Retail Consortium (BRC).

This marks the sharpest quarterly decline reported since the inception of the BRC’s employment monitor in July 2010.

BRC chief executive Helen Dickinson said the decline appears to be accelerating quarter-on-quarter as retailers “seek productivity gains in a highly competitive market”.

She said: ”While we have yet to detect any clear impact from the Brexit referendum on sales, footfall or employment in the industry, inflationary pressures are unquestionably building due to impact of the weaker pound on import costs.

“As retailers look to keep prices low for customers they are likely to re-examine staffing levels, particularly as competition intensifies and cost pressures imposed by government continue to take their toll.”

She adds that retailers are also actively investing in existing staff “to improve the quality of their jobs and productivity per employee”.

All three months of the quarter witnessed a fall in full-time equivalent employment.

There was a deep decline of 3.6% in July, but the figures improved in August and September with respective drops of 2.7% and 2.6%.

Both food and non-food retailers saw a slump in employment. However, food retailers reported the steepest decline, with the number of hours worked in the food sector falling to its lowest level since October 2014.

The total number of shops also fell by 1.2% in the quarter, with both food and non-food retailers shuttering stores.

According to PricewaterhouseCoopers research compiled by Local Data Company (LDC), retailers opened just 2,153 new stores in the UK in the first half of 2016, and shuttered 2,656 shops during the same period, creating a net decrease of 503 stores across high streets, retail parks and shopping centres.