// Next warns retail jobs have become “unviable” because of the shift to online shopping
// CEO Simon Wolfson said thousands of traditional retail jobs are likely to be under threat
// The comments come after Chancellor Rishi Sunak confirmed a new Jobs Support Scheme
Next has warned that retail employment has become “unviable” in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic, which has changed the way consumers shop.
The retailer’s chief executive Lord Simon Wolfson said thousands of traditional retail jobs are likely to be under threat as customers increasingly shift to online shopping.
In an interview with the BBC, Wolfson said: “I wouldn’t want to underestimate the difficulty that is going to cause a lot of people who work in retail. I think it’s going to be very uncomfortable for a lot of people.
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“We will inevitably, and have already, reduced the number of people working in our shops and I expect that to continue over the coming five or six years as the demand for retail goes down.
“But we are taking on people in our call centres; we are training new recruits in our call centres, in our warehousing. Our distribution networks are taking on new employees.
“So there are new jobs and, in terms of finding where those opportunities are, the internet provides an amazing and powerful tool to connect employers with employees.”
The comments come after Chancellor Rishi Sunak confirmed a new Jobs Support Scheme aimed at protecting “viable” roles as Covid-19 infections continue to rise across the UK.
The new scheme’s targeted approach replaces the furlough programme, officially known as the Coronavirus Jobs Retention Scheme – which comes to an end next month.
Under the terms of the new scheme announced on Thursday, the UK Government will top up the wages of people working at least a third of their normal hours due to the pandemic.
The amount offered by the government will represent a reduction on the cash it is currently spending under the furlough scheme – it had been paying workers up to 80 per cent of their monthly wage, capped at £2500.
Wolfson said only around 10 per cent of Next’s staff remained on furlough and said “we don’t think we need” the new scheme.
However, he said other sectors will need support from the government, and called on businesses to consider surviving without government handouts.
“I think it’s important that employers begin to pay a little bit more for the schemes and that employees get a little bit less because otherwise, I think there’s a risk that our economy will just become hooked on it,” he said.