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Only 4% of retailers to raise staff numbers in Q1

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Over a third of retailers are planning to shed jobs this year, as the rise in new stores for the last quarter is shown today to have far outstripped the growth in jobs.

Q4’s British Retail Consortium-Bond Pearce Retail Employment Monitor shows that the number of full-time retail jobs increased 0.6 per cent in the three months to December whereas the number of retail outlets grew 5.9 per cent year-on-year for the same period.

A survey of retailers for this study showed that 38 per cent of respondents are planning to decrease staffing levels in the next quarter, compared to 13 per cent last year.

Only four per cent plan to increase their employees and the remaining 58 per cent plan to keep staff numbers the same.

In the last quarter of 2010 there were the equivalent of 3,900 more full-time jobs in UK retail than the same period in the previous year but Stephen Robertson, BRC Director General, argues that the picture is not as bleak as it seems.

“Against an economy-wide background of rising unemployment, retail job numbers were up modestly by 0.6 per cent on the same quarter in 2009,” he said.

“Almost two-thirds of retailers say they will add to or maintain job numbers over the next three months and new stores are still being opened.

“With youth unemployment a major concern, retailers’ largely positive outlook is good news for young jobseekers since a third of retail staff are under 25.”

Due to poor weather conditions December was a particularly difficult month for the whole retail sector but there seems to be a clear split between types of companies when it comes to confidence, with the grocery sector looking to increase staff level and non-food looking to cut staffing costs.

During the month the number of hours worked by employees of the retail sector fell by 1.5 per cent year-on-year, the equivalent to losing 10,300 full-time jobs compared to 2009.

With retail one of the industries expected to soak up job losses created by swingeing public sector cuts, Robertson has called on the government to ease burdens on business and focus on growth in the coming year.

Christina Tolvas-Vincent, Head of Retail Employment at business law firm Bond Pearce, commented:

“The overall figures are challenging, but it’s significant that employment in the retail sector continued to outperform the overall economy.

“It’s still too early to assess the impact of the public sector cuts on the private sector as a whole but there must now be some doubt cast on the extent to which retailers can absorb job losses.”

“Talk about a double-dip recession is premature although the UK recovery is slow compared with other G7 economies.”

Published on Thursday 27 January by Editorial Assistant

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