75,000 retail jobs were lost in the first quarter of the year, as bricks-and-mortar retailers continue to be affected by increasing online sales.

The total number of retail employees dropped 2.4% year on year in the first quarter of the year, according to the latest British Retail Consortium Retail Employment Monitor.

The BRC’s figures mirrored those in the most recent employment data from the Office for National Statistics, which showed a decline in retail employment of 2.1% in the last quarter of 2018 – in stark contrast with the UK economy, which saw employment levels at the highest since records began.

The total hours worked by retail employees fell 2.7% year on year, and 17% of retailers surveyed indicated plans to “reduce staff in the coming quarter”.

BRC chief executive Helen Dickinson said more retail jobs were likely to be lost in the next quarter, due to “spiralling business costs”, administrations, CVAs and store closures.

She said: “Yet again, the number of retail jobs fell during the first quarter of this year, with a 2.4% year-on-year fall in employees. This would be equivalent to losing 74,400 people across the retail industry.

“While the number of stores rose, this was mainly driven by an increase in small-format stores, with many larger stores closing – resulting in a net job loss. And more jobs are likely to disappear unless there is a shift in government policies.

“Retail is undergoing a period of unprecedented change in response to new technologies and changing consumer behaviour. The investment required to successfully navigate this transformation is being held back by the rising cost of public policy.

“Over three million people rely directly on the retail sector for jobs, with many more working throughout the supply chain. Yet spiralling business costs pose a grave threat to these jobs – as recent administrations, CVAs and store closures show.”

75,000 retail jobs lost in first three months of 2019