High street ‘bloodbath’ sees surge of employee distress

What one observer describes as the “bloodbath” seen on the high street over recent days has resulted in a spike of anxious calls to the Retail Trust charity.

High street 'bloodbath' sees surge of employee distress

As a string of high-profile retail names have collapsed, the trust, which is concerned with the needs of the 3m people working in retail, saw a 300% increase in calls to its helpline in just three days from retail employees at risk of redundancy.

In the last two weeks administrations, closures and cutbacks have resulted in the loss or threat of loss of thousands of jobs at retailers including Life & Style, Habitat, TJ Hughes, Jane Norman, Dolphin, Carpetright and Thorntons.

The Retail Trust, which offers a free ReWork programme to help retail employees at threat of redundancy, says that calls to its helpline in June were 40% up on those of last June.

The trust’s CEO, Nigel JL Rothband, said: “These are very difficult times for people in retail…Our helpline team are on hand now taking calls, answering emails and texts from worried retail staff and I would urge anyone worried about redundancy, debt, stress or anything else at all to get in touch with our team who are here to support them when they need us the most.”

The helpline, which is free and confidential, is on 0808 801 0808.

Meanwhile, one leading retail observer says we are witnessing “a bloodbath on the high street”.

Said Emmanuel Hembert, principal at global strategy consultancy AT Kearney: “We urged caution about the unexpectedly upbeat retail figures in March and April – and we have unfortunately been proved right.

“Economic fundamentals remain weak and are suffocating consumer spending. Fuel rises, commodity prices, tax increases and public sector cutbacks are squeezing the consumer wallet.

“March and April were rosy on the surface, but in fact many sectors have experienced a decline in sales for several months in a row – such as home furnishings. It’s no surprise to see retailers like Habitat and Carpetright in difficulties.

“Retailers are eating each other’s lunch,” he went on, and he warned that only the most efficient in category management, assortment, logistics, store operations, promotions and pricing would survive.

He added that the most worrying threat of all would be a rise in interest rates.

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