The number of retail jobs fell during the final quarter of 2016 as businesses continued to adjust to structural changes sweeping the industry.

The equivalent number of full-time jobs dropped 3% between October 1 and December 31, 2016 compared to the previous year, despite retailers having to contend with the peak shopping periods of Black Friday and Christmas. 

According to the British Retail Consortium’s latest Retail Employment Monitor, grocery retailers drove the decline in jobs, as the number of full-time equivalent hours “fell sharply.”

All three months during the quarter suffered a decline in employment, with October recording the shallowest drop of 1.6%.

Full-time equivalent employment fell 2.9% in November compared to the same month the prior year, while December registered a 4.6% slump despite the festive rush.

The BRC said the decline in the equivalent number of full-time jobs came despite a 1.5% uplift in the number of stores year-on-year, driven by non-food retailers.

Businesses are adapting to the rise of ecommerce and the use of technology within stores, which have softened the demand for retail workers.

Black Friday’s importance

Chief executive Helen Dickinson said the figures were “consistent” with the trend of retailers cutting staff hours in order to “adjust to big structural changes in the industry.”

Dickinson added: “In the last quarter, seasonal overtime was scaled back much more than in previous years, reflecting the relative fall in importance of Boxing Day relative to pre-Christmas spend and Black Friday.

“Against the backdrop of cost pressures, fierce competition between retailers, evolving customer needs, and the lightning expansion of digital technology, many retailers are likely to continue re-examining staffing levels to continue adapting.”