Scotland’s retail industry is undergoing a seismic shift driven by changes in shopping habits, new technology, intense competition, falling prices and burgeoning regulatory costs. Many in the industry are responding by refining their business models, investing in new technology and revamping their logistics capabilities.
Our ‘Retail 2020’ report makes clear that jobs in retail will in future be higher-skilled, more productive and better paid, but that there will be fewer of them. Moves in this direction are already underway, with official data showing a drop of 3,500 retail jobs in Scotland last year. The number of stores in Scotland is also forecast to drop further.
These changes also have profound implications for devolved public policy, particularly for employment prospects in communities more reliant on retail jobs, for our town centres and for future revenues from taxes such as business rates.
The cumulative burden of government-imposed tax and regulatory costs has mushroomed and is accelerating the pace of change in the industry. This reinforces the need for a far more coherent approach to policy making, in which business and government as a whole in Scotland work together to deliver a joint retail industry strategy that nurtures the sector and helps it fulfil its potential over the decade ahead. This would benefit retail, the supply chain and the other sectors it touches – as well as the customer.