A fifth of retailers are planning to cut jobs in the lead up to Christmas as economic woes continue to batter the sector.
According to the British Retail Consortium’s Employment Monitor, 21% of retailers said they had plans to reduce staff in the coming quarter compared to a remarkable 0% this time last year.
The BRC said the retailers’ attitude was “surprising” given that the quarter running into the festive season is the busiest of the year.
However, the sector has been hit hard this year with falling consumer confidence and rising costs such as business rates.
Just over a third, 36%, had plans to increase staffing, down from the 50% seen at the same point last year, while 43% were planning on making no changes, compared to 50% last year.
The survey revealed that in the third quarter total hours in the sector were down 2.1% on the same period in 2017. The hours lost were mainly full time with retailers using their part-time workforce more flexible, offering additional hours instead of increasing full-time roles.
The BRC said this structural change was in “stark contrast” to the whole of the UK economy, which continues to see record lows of unemployment.
Store growth in the sector slowed to 0.7%, down on the 1.5% growth seen in the third quarter in 2017.
“The retail industry, the country’s largest private sector employer, continues to be under considerable pressure. While pay is growing much faster than in other industries, employment in retail continues to fall. And there are challenging times ahead, with a fifth of retailers indicating plans to reduce staff ahead of retail’s busiest quarter, when normally they would be looking to increase headcount,” said Helen Dickinson, chief executive of the BRC.
“As the Autumn budget looms, the retail industry is looking to the Government to help alleviate some of the pressure of a broken business rates system. An indication that reform is coming would provide welcome relief to the industry and to those who work within it.”
Sign up to our newsletter to get the latest from Business Advice.