UK retail market: ‘most competitive in the world’

The British retail industry today employs 100,000 people in roles that didn’t even exist five years ago, according to the British Retail Consortium (BRC).

The BRC’s ‘Journey to Better Jobs’ report examines the way retail jobs are changing. Some 42 retail businesses, employing 1,200,000 people, lent their support to the survey, which reveals that while overall numbers of employees in retail are expected to fall over the coming few years, innovative ways of working will also create tens of thousands of new types of job including digital artworkers, online merchandisers and even personal stylists.

BRC chief executive Helen Dickinson said “Retailers have always been quick to adapt to the changing competitive environment. But the fact that over the coming five years they will create more jobs in new roles than Google employs worldwide, shows just what fantastic opportunities retail offers in all kinds of roles.

“Where once retail jobs were stigmatised as just ‘shelf-stacking’, the industry is now a leader in offering opportunities in app development, microbiology or events planning.”

Data from BRC members showed that over 3% of retail employees are occupied in roles that didn’t exist five years ago. The study said that with the majority of these jobs in occupations requiring high levels of technical, scientific or creative skill, this means that there are more people working in new roles in retail than are employed by the entire UK aerospace industry.

The report provides a roadmap for improvement in a broad range of areas. These include the way in which training supports progression, customising jobs to cater for differing life needs, making routes to progression more accessible, and addressing the means of engaging people in improving productivity.

John Lewis Partnership chairman Sir Charlie Mayfield said: “The UK retail market is the most competitive in the world and it is undergoing a level of structural change not seen before, driven by the phenomenal speed of new technology.

“We all need to rethink how our businesses operate, what our customers need in the future and what this means for the skills of the people we employ. We don’t believe the transition will be easy but we are committed to ensuring that in the future, there will be better jobs in retail.”


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