EXCLUSIVE: Less than 1/3 of workers believe UK retail will bounce back after lockdown

EXCLUSIVE: Less than 1/3 of workers believe UK retail will bounce back
The Retail Gazette's Health of UK Retail survey sought to capture sentiments around the state of the industry in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic from the eyes of retail workers of all levels.
// 32% retail workers confident the industry will recover after the lockdown is relaxed
// 66% of survey respondents fear the current health of UK retail might be worse than it seems
// 50% say what the government’s support packages so far was “only a start” and more was needed

Less than a third of UK retail workers believe the sector will recover after the coronavirus lockdown is relaxed but two-thirds fear the health of the industry may be worse than it seems, according to new data.

An exclusive survey conducted by Retail Gazette found that 32 per cent of respondents were confident that the industry would recover after the government-mandated lockdown of non-essential retail stores is relaxed.

This compares to 18 per cent of respondents who do not believe UK retail will bounce back after lockdown, and just over a third – 35 per cent – who are sitting on the fence.

When it came to the health of the UK retail industry at the moment, 66 per cent of respondents said they were worried things might be worse than it seemed.

Just under a quarter – 24.8 per cent – expressed concern but believe the current state of things was only temporary, while six per cent of respondents said they felt no hope for the health of UK retail.

Only three per cent of respondents felt positive about the current state of UK retail.

In individual responses, some survey participants highlighted that while the sector may recover, there will still be lots of job cuts and permanent store closures.

Others said the industry as a whole won’t be the same as it was before, bricks-and-mortar retail will be far worse off than online, or that the pandemic was only accelerating and exacerbating the challenges UK retail faced before the crisis.

Retail workers also believed the government needed to do more to help the sector and wider economy weather the storm as the pandemic continues in the weeks or months ahead.

In Retail Gazette’s Health of UK Retail survey, 50 per cent of respondents said what the government has offered far was “only a start”, while 15 per cent of respondents said the government was not doing enough at all.

This compares to 30 per cent who believe the support offered was enough.

Of the support packages being offered by the government during the pandemic, almost two-thirds of respondents – 65 per cent – said the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme was the most useful.

Meanwhile, 29 per cent said the one-year business rates holiday was the most useful, and six per cent opted for the deferral of VAT and National Insurance payments.

In their individual responses, many survey participants expressed concern around how long the government needed to prop up the sector and wider economy given the uncertainty of how long the lockdown and pandemic would last.

Others praised the government’s efforts, but highlighted the need for a swift delivery of the funds promised.

In terms of sentiments around the future of their jobs in retail, only one quarter of respondents felt confident and have been assured their position was safe.

On the other hand, three per cent of respondents said they lost their jobs.

However, the lack of clarity around employment security is the dominant sentiment.

Twenty-seven per cent of survey respondents said they have been told their jobs were safe, but expressed concern as to what could happen to them after two or three weeks.

An additional 35.5 per cent of respondents say they have not received any clarity either way – they assume their job is safe, but they haven’t explicitly been told anything to guarantee this.

Of the respondents in Retail Gazette‘s Health of UK Retail survey, 36 per cent said they worked in fashion retail, 23 per cent worked in home, sports or electronics, 20 per cent worked in department stores, 15 per cent in grocers, and only six per cent said they worked in pure-play ecommerce.

Broken down further, 31 per cent of respondents said they were shop floor staff, 34 per cent had senior management, C-level or head of positions, 20 per cent had other head office jobs, while 15.5 per cent worked in the supply chain.

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