29 February 2016 - Janet Bird
A new report predicts that up to 900,000 jobs could go in the retail sector in less than ten years.
The study by the British Retail Consortium (BRC) suggests the rate of change within the industry will only quicken in years to come.
It cites the digital revolution, increasing labour costs and the availability of better and more affordable technology as among the factors which will drive change.
By 2025, the report suggests, up to 900,000 fewer staff could be employed in the retail sector, which currently provides jobs for around three million people.
It foresees a future of store closures, as changing shopping habits, the impact of a heavy tax burden and the National Living Wage begin to bite. Indeed, the BRC report predicts up to 74,000 of the 270,000 shops in the UK today could close.
The study warns "economically fragile" parts of the UK will suffer the worst impact, with the BRC forecasting almost 30 percent of store closures could be in the north of England and in Wales.
Accepting that responsibility for managing the predicted changes rests primarily with the industry itself, the BRC is nevertheless urging the Government to look now at how the impact on economically vulnerable communities could be mitigated.
As well as calling for a rebalancing of the burden of taxation through a fundamental reform of business rates, it is urging the Government to look very carefully at the likely impact of the National Living Wage and the new apprenticeship levy on employment.
The BRC stresses too that the forecast changes are not all bad news, with those jobs that remain likely to be more productive and higher earning. Customers too will enjoy better value, more choice and greater convenience.