Retailers will seek efficiency improvements in supply chain and logistics to fund investment in automation and deal with the costs associated with new government policies, according to a report by the British Retail Consortium (BRC) entitled “Retail 2020, Fewer but better jobs”.
It warned that because technology prices have gone down while labour costs increase, by 2025 there may be as many as 900,000 fewer jobs in retail, with thousands of shops closing on high streets across the country. Some three million people are currently employed in retail.
The report highlighted the need to reform business rates as well as the impact of the National Living Wage. It said this would hit the North particularly hard, although it would have little impact on jobs in London and the South East.
According to the BRC, a lot of jobs will be replaced by automated systems. It said that to fund this automation investment, and the new government policies, retailers will seek “further sources of productivity improvement including supply chain and logistics efficiencies and labour scheduling improvement, which would not necessarily lead to job losses”.
BRC chief executive Helen Dickinson said: “The key conclusions of today’s report are not surprising – there will be a further contraction in retail space and a reduction in the number of people employed in retail. Individual retailers will find their own paths to 2020 and beyond but from an industry perspective, we hope to see technology and competition resulting in better experiences for the customer and better jobs for those working in retail.”
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.”