Thursday 23 January 2020 12:01 am

UK retail sector sheds 57,000 jobs after tough year for high street

The retail sector shed 57,000 jobs in the fourth quarter of last year following the “worst year on record” for the UK high street. 

The total number of retail employees fell 1.8 per cent year on year, in the 16th consecutive quarter of decline, the latest research found.

The job loss figures come after it emerged that last year was the worst 12 months on record for UK retailers, as overall annual sales dipped for the first time since 1995.

Full-time employment fell three per cent last quarter, while the number of part time jobs declined 1.2 per cent during the “golden” period of Christmas trading, the British Retail Consortium said. 

However, the decline in the fourth quarter of 2019 was not as steep as the 2.8 per cent drop suffered the previous year. 

Research found that 38 per cent of retailers plan to hire fewer employees in the coming quarter, and just eight per cent said they intended to increase staff numbers in the first quarter of this year. 

British Retail Consortium chief executive Helen Dickinson said: “There were many challenges in 2019: Businesses had to contend with the repeated risk of no deal Brexit, a general election and the ongoing transformation of the industry, leading to weak consumer demand.

“As a result, employment has suffered in retail, the UK’s largest private sector employer.

“This matters – retail offers many people their first job, a range of flexible working options, and huge opportunities for progression.” 

Dickinson added: “There are opportunities for action and the Government’s review of business rates could not come at a more crucial time. 

“It is essential that they reform this broken system and rectify a tax that sees retail, which accounts for 5 per cent of the economy, pay 25 per cent of the burden.”