The only retailers intending to decrease staffing levels in the second quarter are in the non-food sector, as conditions remain tough outside of grocery.

20% of all retailers plan to decrease staffing levels in the next three months, against 8% in the same period last year, according to the British Retail Consortium-Bond Pearce Retail Employment Monitor. No food retailers plan to decrease staffing levels this quarter.

64% of retailers intend to keep staffing levels unchanged in the quarter, against 71% last year. 16% of retailers plan to increase staffing levels.

The number of retail stores increased 1.4% in the first quarter, driven entirely by the grocery sector, while the number of non-food stores declined for the ninth consecutive month.

BRC director-general Helen Dickinson said: “[The data] reveals wide variations across the sector, as growth is coming almost entirely from food retailers while non-food has seen levels dip both for employment and store numbers.” 

In the first quarter retail employment rose 1.8% driven by part-time workers and food retailers, offsetting the administrations of HMV, Jessops and Blockbuster at the beginning of the year that are now filtering through to the figures.

This is bucking the trend in overall UK employment, which fell to 29.7 million, as recorded by the Office for National Statistics last week.

However, retail collapses have pushed sector redundancy rates up to the highest level since the monitor began at the height of the recession in October 2008.