The UK retail industry is expected to say goodbye close to 1 million jobs by 2025, according to a new report from the British Retail Consortium. As the retail sector is predicted to shrink over the next decade, the BRC predicts that up to 900,000 jobs will be cut in addition to thousand of store closures. But not all is dire, as the industry body believes that the remaining roles will be "more productive and higher earning."
According to the report, entitled 'Retail 2020: Fewer but better jobs', increasing costs from new government policies, such as the "national living wage", increased business rates and new apprenticeship levy, may increase the rate of redundancies. The "national living wage" is set to cost UK retailers between 1 billion and 3 billion pounds annually by 2020 according to the BRC's calculations and the influx in business rates and the apprenticeship levy will cost retailer another 400 million pounds.
"The rate of change within the workforce is now set to quicken as the digital revolution reshapes the industry, assisted by many more leases being up for renewal and accelerated by the diverging costs of labour versus technology," wrote the BRC in the report. "The retail industry is supportive in principle of the National Living Wage but the effects on employment have been underestimated."
The UK retail sector currently employs approximately 3 million individuals in 270,000 stores - but 74,000 of these stores may close in the next decade, warns the BRC, with close to 30 percent of the store closures taking place in northern England and Wales. "Areas that are already economically fragile are likely to see the greatest impact of store closures and some of the people affected by changing roles will be those who may find it hardest to transition into new jobs that are created," noted the BRC.
However, the remaining roles within the retail industry should be more productive and higher earning. "The result will see improvements in the quality and variety of the offer to customers, continuing competitiveness in pricing, and greater productivity from fewer but better jobs. These changes are already obvious and they are being driven predominantly by changing customer behaviour and increasing competitive capability."