The UK retail sector has seen full time equivalent employment drop by 3.3 per cent, as rising employment costs and automation start to bite.
According to the British Retail Consortium’s (BRC) retail employment monitor, there was a significant reduction in the number of full time and part time hours worked in the three months to June 30, compared to a year prior.
Over two thirds (69 per cent) of respondents said they had seen a reduction in hours compared to the same period last year.
April showed the sharpest decline of the quarter, despite revealing a slowdown compared to the first quarter which showed a 3.9 per cent drop. This is largely due to the increased need for staff over the late Easter.
Furthermore, 15 per cent of retailers surveyed admitted to intending to decrease employment levels further in the coming quarter.
“The second quarter of 2017 saw employment in retail fall as the tide of change continues to sweep through the industry,” BRC chief executive Helen Dickinson said.
“Technology, which is both transforming the way we shop and providing increasing opportunities for automation in retail, combined with a difficult market environment and policies that have increased the cost of employing people, such as the National Living Wage and the Apprenticeship Levy, are driving the industry towards fewer but more productive jobs.
“The pace of consolidation in the retail workforce has slowed this quarter compared to last. However, there are further reductions to come.
“The transformation of the industry is still in progress and this quarters’ data show that more retailers are intending to reduce their workforce in the coming months than at the same point last year.
“As ever, there are some retailers who are thriving and growing their workforce, although they are in the minority. 69 per cent of respondents to our survey saw employees work fewer hours in Q2 this year, compared to last, with reductions particularly acute amongst non-food retailers.
“With consumers seeing inflation squeezing their spending power, the challenges facing retailers will only increase in coming months; reinforcing the pressure on retailers to rethink and restructure their workforce.”