The rate of change within the retail workforce is set to quicken as the digital revolution reshapes the industry, more property leases come up for renewal and the cost of labour goes up, while the cost of technology goes down.
These effects could mean there are as many as 900,000 fewer jobs in retail by 2025 but those that remain will be more productive and higher earning, according to research published by the British Retail Consortium that examines how the retail landscape will change by 2010.
The imposition of the National Living Wage may cost jobs but improve the overall quality of shopping for retailers and drive up job satisfaction for the workforce.
BRC chief executive, Helen Dickinson, said: “The key conclusions of today’s report are not surprising – there will be a further contraction in retail space and a reduction in the number of people employed in retail. Individual retailers will find their own paths to 2020 and beyond but from an industry perspective, we hope to see technology and competition resulting in better experiences for the customer and better jobs for those working in retail.”
Chairman of the BRC and John Lewis Partnership, Sir Charlie Mayfield, added: “The report reaches some positive conclusions. Customers will get better choice, better value, more convenience and more personalisation. Retailing will be more productive, powered by better jobs that offer the chance to develop a wide array of skills and greater earnings. Not because of the National Living Wage, but because differentiation between competing retailers will depend on it.”
Sir Ian Cheshire, chairman, Debenhams plc, suggested his organisation is already preparing for the new normal: “There is no doubt the structure of the retail industry is changing fast and there will be fewer retail jobs in the future. Retailers will get on with the job in hand. But ensuring that proper account is taken of the potential impact of this change, particularly on different parts of the country and more vulnerable people in the workforce requires the Government and the industry to work together in a new way. We want the jobs that remain to be better jobs and the way in which the National Living Wage, the Apprenticeship levy and the vital reform of the business rates system are implemented is absolutely crucial,” he said.