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Jan 1, 2021
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177,000 retail jobs lost in 2020, more expected in 2021 - report

Published
Jan 1, 2021

As many as 177,000 jobs were lost from UK retail last year, a new study from the Centre for Retail Research (CRR) showed on Friday. That’s up by a quarter compared to 2019 and it's predicting another 200,000 to be lost in 2021.


Store closures and the online shift have led to thousands of job losses in 2020 - Photo: Public domain


Retail is the largest private sector employment channel in Britain and it's been hit particularly hard by the effects of the pandemic, with the effects of being felt more by women (who are more likely to be working in retail) than men.

The report said the job losses have hit entry-level retail positions in particular with the sales assistant and checkout roles that women are most likely to hold being eliminated in large numbers. By contrast, jobs being created in online warehouses and in delivery are more likely to have gone to men.

And many more jobs are hanging by a thread. More than 310,000 non-essential shops are currently closed in England, according to real estate data provider Altus Group. On Friday retail giant Primark estimated its lost sales from the current round of UK and Ireland store closures to be around £650 million. And while Primark can support such losses, many retailers can’t.

So, as the fashion and retail sectors still wait to hear the final outcomes of the Debenhams and Arcadia failures, the CRR expects many more store closures this year on top of 15,700 in 2020, with many more jobs to go as a result.

Joshua Bamfield, the CRR’s director, said: “Our forecast is based upon a number of factors such as the cumulative effects of months of closure and its impact upon cashflow and rent arrears that will be payable when the moratorium ends, while the longer-term effects of the greater use by shoppers of all kinds of online retailing is likely to be hugely damaging for physical stores.”

The impact of the online shift and of the pandemic have made retail job losses in 2020 so much worse than the losses that were seen during the financial crash of 2008. Last year, around half of the employees working for a retailer that went under lost their jobs. In 2008, that figure had been only around a third.

And the losses have been seen at all levels of the market as independent companies failed and even big chains that are still in existence reduced their store numbers.

Laura Ashley, Oasis, Warehouse, and Arcadia’s Evans summed up the approach taken by many when they were rescued but all of the stores closed. Cath Kidston seemed to be taking the same approach, although it has reopened one location, its flagship on London’s Piccadilly.

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