A political think tank has warned that staggering numbers of retail jobs could be lost unless the government steps in and provides some support.
A new report from the Fabian Society suggests that one million retail jobs could be lost as rising business costs and the prominence of online shopping pose a significant threat to the status quo.
Furthermore, the group warned that retail has been missing from all major government speeches on industrial strategy, despite employing more workers than any other industry.
“Retail is at the crossroads,” Fabian Society’s retail task force chairman Norman Pickavance said.
“Online retailers threaten to destroy high streets and pound shops are sprouting up in the space that’s been left behind.
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“As a result, the retail sector is threatened with one million job losses or a continued rise of precarious low-skill, low-pay employment practices.
“Our analysis highlights that failure to include the retail sector in the modern industrial strategy is a glaring omission.
“There is an alternative path for retail where focused investment and policy changes can stimulate innovation, create better jobs and help to renew the vitality and fabric of urban and rural communities.”
A government spokesperson responded to the calls for action.
“Government recognises that businesses understand best the challenges and priorities in their industry and our consultation invites sectors, including retail, to come to us with proposals for how we can help them respond to future challenges and opportunities,” they said.
This was challenged by the shadow business minister Chi Onwurah, who said: “This is further evidence that Theresa May’s industrial strategy is little more than window-dressing for continued managed decline under the Tories.
“Last week’s Green Paper had almost nothing to say about retail, and this report underlines the failure of this Government to respond to urgent challenges such as automation and low productivity.”