• 465,000 workers - 70% of them women - most at risk from shake-up in retail 
  • BRC has warned of impact of automation and rising costs from living wage and apprenticeship levy
  • Charlie Mayfield, BRC chairman, warns findings are “worrying”

Nearly half a million retail workers – 70% of them women – are the most vulnerable to structural changes hitting the industry, the BRC has warned.

A total of 465,000 employees aged 26 to 45 will be the most at risk of losing their jobs due to automation and retailers’ rising costs, new British Retail Consortium (BRC) research revealed today. 

The trade body warned in February that there could be up to 900,000 fewer jobs in retail by 2025 due to the shake-up happening in the industry.

The government’s new living wage and apprenticeship levy are also being blamed for the forecast. Few retailers have broken rank on criticising the living wage, but a number have faced criticism after cutting staff perks and benefits. 

Today’s report – Retail 2020: What Our People Think – is the second part in a BRC study looking at the future of retail. It is likely to force the government to think carefully about the threat to jobs, as retail is the UK’s largest private sector employer. 

The latest figures show that the average age of a low-paid worker in retail is 35, while 70% of this category is women. A fifth receive tax credits. A low-paid worker is defined as somebody who receives an hourly rate of 20% or less above the minimum wage.

This group of workers are more likely to find it harder to find alternative employment, the BRC said.

“The research includes some worrying findings,” said BRC and John Lewis Partnership chairman Charlie Mayfield.

However, the study shows retail productivity should improve, which will lead to better-quality jobs for those that remain.

BRC chief executive Helen Dickinson called for jobs that are as “attractive, accessible and well remunerated as possible”.

But she added: “Government also has a role to play in considering carefully the risks around polices such as the national living wage and the apprenticeship levy, which have sound intentions but risk failing on implementation.” 

Last month, the CBI called for a “radical rethink” on the apprenticeship levy as it claims firms are being “kept in the dark”.