Responding to the latest ONS jobs figures, which show 3.097m jobs in retail, down 67,000 year-on-year, Helen Dickinson, Chief Executive of the British Retail Consortium, said:

“While the Christmas quarter traditionally sees a rise in retail jobs, the last quarter of 2020 saw the lowest Q4 job numbers since 1999. While the second wave of the pandemic swept away tens of thousands of retail jobs, many more were saved by the Government’s furlough scheme, which is now providing support for 600,000 retail workers, a rise of 200,000 since December. This is likely to get worse if the third lockdown wears on, and while new jobs were created, focused in grocery and driving online capacity across the market, as well as many temporary jobs in the run up to Christmas, town and city centre stores continue to employ fewer and fewer people.

“Now is the time to rebuild the economy. Retail remains the largest private sector employer in the UK, meaning the strength of the industry remains important for the economy at large. The biggest threat to jobs and shops will be future lockdowns beyond April 12, and it is imperative the Government takes all necessary precautions to prevent that from happening. Any delays to the Prime Minister’s roadmap will undoubtedly result in more store closures and threaten the livelihoods of the retail workers currently furloughed. Retailers are working incredibly hard to ensure stores and operations are safe and ready for reopening, and it is essential that all retail is open and remains open, if it is to unlock the demand which will kickstart our economic recovery.”