With the pandemic and lockdowns accelerating the uptake of e-commerce and causing declining customer spend, Britain’s high street retailers suffered a dismal 2020 in terms of job losses and even more jobs are likely to go in 2021.
This is according to new figures from the Centre for Retail Research (CRR) published on Friday in the UK.
The CRR said the high streets shed 177,000 jobs in 2020 and it expects that a further 200,000 could be lost this year.
Equates to more than 3,000 jobs a week
This equates to one of the most troubled periods for high street trading over the past 25 years, with the equivalent of 3,400 jobs lost every week during 2020.
CRR director, Joshua Bamfield, said 15,700 stores closed their doors permanently and more would follow.
The total number of retail jobs lost in 2020 was up by almost a quarter on the 143,100 recorded for 2019.
Forecast based on multiple difficulties
Last year Sainsbury’s, Marks & Spencer, Boots, John Lewis, Debenhams and Arcadia were among the major retail chains to announce big job cuts.
“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,” said Bamfield, 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 majority of the job losses were the result of store closures, as independents shut and big chains scaled back their physical presence.
UK’s biggest private employment sector
Retailing is Britain’s biggest private employment sector and is a particularly big employer of women. The CRR points out that the ongoing devastation of the high street is eradicating entry-level retail jobs – positions such as sales assistant and checkout operator – which have traditionally been held by females.
Meanwhile, the London-based Guardian newspaper reports that the Fashion and Textile Children’s Trust (FTCT), a hardship charity that assists children whose parents work in the retail sector but are struggling to make ends meet, said it was “braced” for a flood of requests for help.
During 2020, the number of inquiries for its grants increased by nearly 50% to 3,400, the organisation reported.