Wednesday 9 September 2020 3:26 pm

Pandemic pushes retail job losses to 125,500 this year

More than 125,500 retail jobs have been lost so far this year as the coronavirus pandemic accelerated changes on the struggling UK high street.

Nearly 15,700 roles were lost every month, while 13,867 shops have closed down across the UK this year. 

Read more: UK retailers encouraged to boost exports after Covid-19 batters high streets

Small independent retailers shed 32,598 jobs between 1 January and 31 August, while those with five or more stores lost 92,917 jobs, according to the Centre for Retail Research.

So far, 43,381 jobs have been lost through retailers falling into administration.

Research showed that 10,556 jobs have been lost through company voluntary arrangements, a controversial insolvency procedure used to close loss-making stores.

A further 71,578 jobs have been shed through “rationalisation” as part of cost cutting programmes by multiple retailers or small shops simply pulling their shutters for good.

Bricks and mortar retailers have been hit hard by the coronavirus crisis as they were forced to close for months during the lockdown.

The lockdown also encouraged more consumers to shop online, a shift which experts predict will become permanent.

Struggling department store Debenhams has made 6,500 workers redundant since the beginning of the pandemic in March, 1,300 roles are at risk at John Lewis and Boots is preparing to cut 4,000 positions. 

Despite the Government’s furlough scheme job losses are 31.5 per cent higher than during the same period in 2019 with more pain expected to come as the job retention scheme support winds down this Autumn.

Centre for Retail Research director Professor Joshua Bamfield said “retail was already in crisis before the pandemic” citing high costs, low profitability and losing sales to online shopping.

He warned that “Covid-19 has been a real hammer blow for retailers many of which were not in good health before the contagion took a hand. The prospects for many non-food retailers are bleak.”

Read more: UK retail sector shows ‘promising’ signs of recovery in August

The Treasury granted a business rates holiday to retail, leisure and hospitality businesses to help support firms throughout the pandemic, costing the government £10.13bn according to real estate adviser Altus Group. 

“Many retailers are clinging on to solvency and, for those, an abrupt halt to the current rates holiday could spell the end, full stop” Robert Hayton, Altus Group’s head of business rates said.