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BRC’s Retail 2020 report: Is it as bad as it sounds?

Retail 2020 header

You may have seen press coverage of the new report out from the British Retail Consortium that claims the retail industry will lose almost one million jobs by 2020.
The report, in essence highlights the fact that fundamental changes in the retail industry such as improved productivity and changes in the way people shop will see roles being made redundant, costs being cut and stores closing.
This sparked a furore in the press which jumped on the figures as the ‘death of UK retail’ and warning that poorer areas won’t be able to adapt to what many see as the future of the industry.
But is the situation really as bad as the headlines suggest? The answer is...no.
Sure, the figures are scary – after all, one million jobs is approximately one-third of the industry. However, the bigger picture painted by the report is that there will be fewer but better jobs and emphasises that the focus should be on managing the impact that this change will cause.
With 900,000 fewer jobs in the industry, those that remain will be more productive and higher earning.

This will mean improvements in the quality and variety of the offer to customers and up the skill level in an industry that famously suffers from a poor skills reputation.
It is true that areas that are already economically fragile are likely to see the greatest impact of store closures and some of the people affected by the changing roles will be those who may find it hardest to transition into the new jobs that are created.

The BRC is calling on the Government to mitigate this through overhauling the business rates system and greater employer participation in the apprenticeship levy including more say over how and where it is spent.
In his closing remarks in the report, chairman of the BRC and John Lewis Partnership, Sir Charlie Mayfield, said: “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 of Debenhams, added: “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”.

Read the full report here.


Beth Troake

Tuesday, 1 March 2016 at 5:00pm

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Great news for 1.8 million but the other 900,000 can obviously do one then Beth. poorly written article from someone who obviously does not understand the soul of retail - it's people!

Posted by Mike at 2:29pm

Hi Mike, thanks for commenting. It’s a scary number, but the BRC report actually says there will be 900,000 fewer job roles within retail, rather than 900,000 people who will lose their jobs. This is a detail that seems to have been missed in the national press, leading to panic about imminent mass redundancies.

Many roles will simply cease to be when the incumbents reach retirement age and other jobs will likely be merged into combined roles when people move on. It’s a high number, but then retail is at one of the biggest crossroads in its history – akin to the transition that happened when supermarkets appeared in the late ‘40s.

Being people-led, retail tends to see high job losses when companies restructure/merge or as technology advances. Unfortunately this is never going to change. But fears of nearly 1 million people being sacked wholesale in the next four years are very much exaggerated.

I hope that this clarifies my point!

All the best,


Posted by Elizabeth Troake at 5:06pm

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