‘Think retail, think jobs’. There’s no doubt that George Osborne will have more than a little reading material to digest ahead of the Autumn Statement.
‘Think retail, think jobs’. There’s no doubt that George Osborne will have more than a little reading material to digest ahead of the Autumn Statement, but I hope this pithy but powerful heading to our submission will help it stand out from the crowd.
I said at our annual dinner in September that celebrating and enhancing retail as a career is a key objective for the BRC in the years ahead. There’s no shortage of compelling statistics and inspiring case studies to help us tell that story, and to highlight the challenges the industry and Government need to address.
Despite plenty of bumps ahead on the road to economic recovery, retailers are continuing to create jobs, invest in training and offer diverse and flexible careers to our 3 million-strong workforce.
You’d be hard pressed to name a sector that offers such a range of roles and progression opportunities that challenge and reward people for working hard, whatever their age or background.
Where else might you find staff working well past retirement age because they value the atmosphere, flexible hours and opportunity to learn new skills, or ambitious young people getting the support to move into management when barely out of their teens?
So many of us start out in retail - 40% of all jobs for under-20s are in the industry. The sector has a long history of investing in young employees - often with few qualifications - and the recent reforms to the apprenticeship system will make this route into retail work better for retailers and provide an improved opportunity to build sector-specific skills and get the most out of placements.
And so many of us stay in retail. It might be the biggest cliché in the book, but some of the best-known names in the industry are living proof that the shopfloor to boardroom journey can and does happen.
With the countdown to Christmas now well under way, there’s a seasonal slant to our most recent employment statistics as well as our sales figures. As we’d expect, the majority of retailers are intending to increase their workforce during the fourth quarter, but there is added interest in the fact that, for some, that first festive taste of a job in retail can lead to a lasting and fulfilling career.
Our Autumn Statement submission contains one such example of a Christmas temp who rose through the ranks and is now an admin support co-ordinator at the age of 21.
Diversity, flexibility, social mobility and scale: we’re clear that the industry’s capacity to maintain and create jobs will be a major player in securing economic recovery, but our message to the Chancellor is: please don’t take this growth for granted.
By our calculations, nearly 20,000 jobs may be at stake due to a further steep increase in business rates in April 2014. Committing to reform this outdated system would help secure retail’s role as a great career, unlock investment, build confidence and send a clear signal that this success story has been noted.