John Lewis’ Sir Charlie Mayfield has said the “difference between winners and losers in retail will depend on who they employ and the jobs they do”. 

Chairman Sir Charlie Mayfield said John Lewis wanted to “lift the lid” on its workforce to better understand and get more value from it.

Speaking at the British Retail Consortium’s (BRC) Retail Symposium, he said that because of economic uncertainty and the costs owing to the introduction of the living wage, retailers needed to get more value from their employees.

He said a more colourful, granular understanding of the different people within the workforce was needed in order to achieve that.

“The national living wage is enormously helpful in making businesses think about how they should shape their workforce,” he said.

“There will be fewer retail jobs. There could be significant automation and there is the likelihood of an acceleration in the rate of space being closed.

“But retail jobs will get better. We will create more value from the jobs that exist in retail and we will need to do that as wage costs rise.

“That cannot mean just saying ‘work harder’. People don’t go to work just for money.”

Mayfield referred to new BRC research, which showed that pay came sixth in a ranking of the most important factors to retail workers.

Working close to home was the most important factor, followed by flexibility in hours, the rest of the workforce, perks and benefits and helping customers.