Job losses in UK retail accelerate as costs mount

Helen Cahill
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Rising input costs have become a problem for retail businesses (Source: Getty)

Job losses in the retail sector have accelerated in the first quarter of 2017.

According to new figures from the British Retail Consortium, the number of full time jobs in the sector fell 3.9 per cent year-on-year last quarter.

The recent losses add to the estimated 84,000 jobs slashed in the final quarter of 2016, when the BRC's figures showed the number of jobs fell by three per cent.

Read more: Trouble in store: More pain on the way for UK retail

The first three months of the year have been particularly tough for UK retail, with several high street names falling into administration. Brantano and several of Poundland's 99p Stores entered into administration, while Jones the Bootmaker was saved from failure by the private equity firm Endless.

And, experts have predicted many more recognisable retailers will be folding throughout the year. Jaeger, the high street retailer established 133 years ago, entered administration recently, putting 700 jobs at risk.

The problems in the sector have been exacerbated by fierce competition, especially in food and clothing, making it difficult for retailers to pass on costs associated with the fall in the pound and business rates.

Shop prices also continued to fall in March, according to figures from the BRC, with prices on clothing and footwear down by as much as 5.9 per cent.

Read more: Shoe retailer Clarks cuts jobs at its UK headquarters

Big retailers, including Boots, John Lewis, Tesco and Sainsbury's, have all been reducing headcount to survive the increasingly difficult retail environment.

Helen Dickinson, chief executive of the BRC, said: "We expect retailers to continue reviewing how they work with their people as they look to address the changing face of retail and keep prices low for consumers.

"Building inflationary pressures and public policy costs, alongside intense competition, are taking their toll, and retail, as a people intensive industry, is being hit hard.

"That said, many retailers are actively investing in their people to improve the quality and productivity of jobs per employee."

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