Tens of thousands of jobs lost or at risk in retail sector, figures reveal

PUBLISHED: 08:51 02 July 2018 | UPDATED: 11:08 02 July 2018

House of Fraser is among the retail chains this year to have announced store closures and job cuts. Picture: Dominic Lipinski/PA Wire

House of Fraser is among the retail chains this year to have announced store closures and job cuts. Picture: Dominic Lipinski/PA Wire

Around 50,000 people have lost their jobs or seen them put at risk in the first half of the year as retail workers bear the brunt of hundreds of store closures.

The Press Association, which compiled the figures, said the majority of roles axed or under threat were at well-known high street chains.

In the past few weeks alone, more than 6,000 jobs have been put at risk at House of Fraser in a radical store closure plan and Poundworld has gone into administration, endangering a further 5,100.

It follows the demises of Toys R Us and Maplin earlier this year, while the likes of Prezzo, Byron and Jamie’s Italian have shut restaurants and culled hundreds of jobs.

READ MORE: ‘Seismic’ rise in Company Voluntary Arrangement use by chains

Paddy Lillis, general secretary of the shop workers’ union USDAW, said the scale of store closures was “alarming”.

He added: “We are very concerned about the impact of Brexit increasing prices at the same time as incomes being squeezed, customers changing their shopping habits and new technology being introduced.”

Responding to the figures, the TUC called on the government to “up its game” to stem the tide.

The union organisation’s general secretary, Frances O’Grady, said: “Retail depends on customers having money in their pockets. One reason why some shops are struggling is because wage growth has been very weak.”

Experts said 2018 will go down in history as the “year of the Company Voluntary Arrangement” – an insolvency procedure used to push through several store closure programmes this year.

Soaring business rates have been flagged as a major contributor to retail failures.

Robert Hayton, head of UK business rates at Altus Group, said: “Business rates are rarely the sole driver for insolvencies but certainly a contributory factor, with bills having risen by more than a fifth through inflation during the seven years before last year’s revaluation.

“Add that to the lethal cocktail of other increased operating costs for the national living wage and apprenticeship levy and it creates the perfect storm for 2018 being the year of the CVA.”

Figures from Altus show that the average business rates bill for a department store in England and Wales this year for rocketed 26.6% to £717,952 following last year’s government revaluation.

Away from retail, BT is axing around 13,000 jobs as part of a revamped cost-cutting drive, with two-thirds of the cuts to fall in the UK.

The collapse of outsourcer Carillion has so far resulted in the loss of more than 2,375 jobs, with further pain expected.

Earlier this year, British Gas owner Centrica announced that it is to axe 4,000 roles over the next three years under a ramped-up efficiency programme.

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