A rise in employment across the retail sector is being driven by grocers and food retailers while non-food retailers have seen a dip in employment and store numbers, according to figures released today.
Retail employment rose by 1.8 per cent in the first three months of this year compared with a year earlier, according to the British Retail Consortium (BRC)-Bond Pearce Retail Employment Monitor, “driven entirely” by food retailers and part-time workers.
Over the first quarter, the number of stores climbed by 1.4 per cent, and while this is encouraging, it also emphasises a growing disparity between food and non-food retailers.
Helen Dickinson, Director General of the BRC, said: “Looking behind the headlines reveals wide variations across the sector, as growth is coming almost entirely from food retailers while non-food has seen levels dip both for employment and store numbers.
“The retail administrations of recent months have also filtered through to the figures, pushing sector redundancy rates up to the highest level since the Monitor began at the height of the recession in October 2008.
“In light of last week’s unemployment figures, it’s reassuring to see that the retail sector is bucking the general trend and continuing to invest in people and communities.
“But we’d like to see this growth spread more widely across the sector rather than the current ‘tale of two halves’ presented in this quarter.”
Some 20 per cent of all retailers expect to decrease staffing levels in the coming three months, and recent changes to national minimum wage have caused concern for some over how to afford costs amid declining footfall and sales.
Christina Tolvas-Vincent, Head of Retail Employment at business law firm Bond Pearce, noted that the sector has undergone a challenging year, though said the positive results should be applauded given the current economic backdrop.
Nonetheless, Tolvas-Vincent concluded: “Despite this positive note, the polarisation of the retail sector continues, with food retailers accounting for most of the rise in employment and all of the 253 extra stores.
“There are clear concerns for the sector as a whole with redundancy figures up to the highest levels since the research began in 2008 and surprisingly there was no sign of increased recruitment to cover the Easter period.
“However, 80 per cent of retailers are planning to keep staff levels the same or raise them in next three months, which offers some hope for the near future.”