Fears are growing that more than 100,000 jobs could be cut in the retail sector over the next two years.

A struggling economy could result in heavy job losses, according to Verdict Consulting managing director Richard Hyman. Two years ago, Hyman forecast that 30,000 jobs a year could go by 2010. Following tough conditions for many retailers on the high street, he has increased his estimate by 40 per cent to 50,000 jobs a year for 2008 and 2009.

Hyman said: “In all likelihood, there will be an acceleration in job losses. Cost growth at the retailers has been outstripping sales growth and I expect that gap to widen in 2008.”

Hyman also forecast that costs would grow by 4 per cent, compared with sales growth of just 1.8 per cent. He added that, in difficult times, “labour is the easiest thing to cut”.

The retail sector is the third largest in the UK, employing about 3 million people.