More than 3.2 million people work in retail and it is now the UK’s third largest industry behind business services and the health sector
Retail employment is so crucial to today’s economy that its image as a sector full of “shelf-stacking low-skilled” jobs should be swept aside. That is one of the conclusions of a new report which analyses the contribution of the retail sector to the economy, employment and regeneration of the UK.
According to the report, produced by international property consultancy King Sturge in association with Business in the Community, more than 3.2 million people work in retail which, following the slump in manufacturing jobs is now the UK’s third largest industry behind business services and the health sector. And the report says it is time that retailers launched a co-ordinated campaign highlighting the fact that good retail jobs assisted individuals to develop their skills and careers which, in turn, provides real benefits to local communities.
At the end of last year, Nottingham had 20,000 people working in retail and was ranked 11th in the league table of big urban centres most dependent on retail employment.
According to Matthew Smith, Nottingham-based partner of King Sturge’s East Midlands Office “Retailing has proved to be one of the main contributors to employment creation in areas where there has been a loss of manufacturing jobs and although many employees, particularly women, are part-time it must be stressed that 95 percent of all part-time jobs are classed as permanent.
Indeed, the flexibility of part-time employment suits many people who have to dovetail working arrangements with family commitments.”
Last year, the retail sector employed 1.75 million part-time workers –a total that accounted for more than 20 percent of all part-time employees in the UK.
According to Mr. Smith “The focus of much of the debate on retail today has been on the impact that it has had on the look and feel of city centres and the modern High Street. This report is different because it looks at the impact of retail on people who work or have worked in the sector.
There is a perception that retail employment does not create ‘real jobs’ – only part-time or entry-level jobs that are unsustainable in the long term and contribute little to the wider economy. But let there be no mistake, retail is a major source of employment today and in government-identified deprivation areas retailing accounts for 1.1 million jobs, equivalent to ten percent of the workforce. Our document, however, should not be treated as the definitive report on the subject – it is there to further stimulate the debate and to be the catalyst for further research,”.
According to Dr Angus McIntosh, Head of Research at King Sturge “The time is right for retailers to confidently describe the benefits that people receive from working in their industry – benefits which employees themselves describe as helping to improve their skills and employability; being given a good start to career or work life prospects and helping to increase self-confidence.”
“For too long the image of retail as full of shelf-stacking, low-skilled jobs has been allowed to perpetuate. This must now actively be countered with a positive image of employment in the sector, confidently presented to all.”
Dr McIntosh said “It is recommended that retailers launch a concerted and co-ordinated campaign, highlighting the fact that retail jobs are good jobs that assist individuals to develop their skills and careers and which provide real benefits to local communities.”
He said that many property developers recognised the benefits of helping recreate the communities in which their developments were located. These included strengthening the core purpose of the local High Street through the provision of retail space but also adding community facilities such as a nursery or doctor’s surgery to a development site.