The retail industry has come together to launch a campaign to boost careers in the sector and transform its image as an employer.

The British Council of Shopping Centres (BCSC) and charity the Retail Trust are launching Retail Matters, which aims to encourage more people to build a career in the sector, rather than see it as a stop-gap or a weekend job.

The organisations also hope to raise awareness of the importance of the sector as an employer – 4.5 million of the UK’s 13 million workers have jobs in retail, while 40% of working 16- to 24-year-olds do so.

House of Fraser, River Island and Matalan are among the retailers that are supporting the campaign, alongside Westfield, Land Securities, Hammerson and British Land. Retail Week is supporting the campaign as its media partner.

Retail Trust chief executive Richard Boland said: “I’ve spent 40 years in the industry and I have loved every single minute. We want to make people realise what a great industry it is.”

The BCSC and Retail Trust will run an awareness week from 9 to 15 February next year. Retail Matters Week will feature events, apprenticeship programmes and other activities to showcase the career opportunities available in the sector and its contribution to the economy.

BCSC chief executive Michael Green said: “Retail is alive and kicking and we want to attract the youth.

“If we look at the young people in the country, an awful lot go to college or uni and retail and they see it as a short-term answer to pay for beer or college. But we want to tell them it’s much more than that.

“One of the great things about the industry is that it is fantastically egalitarian. You can start in-store at 16 and work your way up to become a chief executive.

“But it’s not just about attracting people, we also want to train those already in it.”

Other retailers committed to the campaign include B&Q, Clarks, New Look, Savers and Pets at Home, along with the British Heart Foundation, Capital & Regional, Intu, TH Real Estate, JLL, Aberdeen Asset Management, The Exchange Ilford and The Prince’s Trust.