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Thousands of UK retail jobs lost last year, industry body reveals

Rui Vieira/PA Wire

By Alan Jones

Around 57,000 retail jobs were lost last year amid the ongoing transformation of the industry, coupled with other issues including Brexit and the general election, according to a new report.

Employment fell for the 16th consecutive quarter in the final few months of 2019, with more full-time than part-time job losses, said the British Retail Consortium (BRC).

Almost two out of five employers in retail companies are also planning to hire fewer staff in the coming months, said the report.

Retailers will be cutting staff anyway following the so-called "golden quarter" covering the busy festive season, according to the BRC.

Chief executive Helen Dickinson said: "There were many challenges in 2019 - businesses had to contend with the repeated risk of no-deal Brexit, a general election and the ongoing transformation of the industry, leading to weak consumer demand.

"As a result, employment has suffered in retail, the UK's largest private sector employer.

"Retailers may be investing heavily in their workers, through training and apprenticeships, but more could be done.

"The current inflexibility in the apprenticeship levy system means that much essential training is not covered, limiting the opportunities for many working in the industry.

"Moreover, it is worrying that the Government is standing by while tens of thousands of jobs are being lost.

"If the same was true in manufacturing or aviation, one can be sure that the Government would act.

"There are opportunities for action and the Government's review of business rates could not come at a more crucial time.

"It is essential that they reform this broken system and rectify a tax that sees retail, which accounts for 5% of the economy, pay 25% of the burden."

A Government spokesman said: "We recognise retail has had a challenging year and continue to work with the sector to identify pressures and steps to address them.

"This includes the delivery of the £1 billion Future High Streets Fund to support local areas in England to renew high streets and our review into business rates, as well as cutting business rates for small retailers by a third this year."

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