Will the retail ‘perfect storm’ affect your career?

Many of the newspapers are reporting that there is a ‘perfect storm’ in retail right now. This perfect storm is the combination of a number of changes. Firstly, the introduction of the living wage means that wage cost has gone up. Secondly, the current economic conditions have forced retailers to find new ways to remain competitive. One recent innovation has been the increase in automation. You will be familiar with self-service checkouts at supermarkets, click and collect options or purely online retail. Well, it seems that these two factors could squeeze job numbers. Furthermore, trends in online shopping could lead to store closures, while increased automation could see lower paid retail jobs deemed unnecessary. A perfect storm indeed!

One report by the British Retail Consortium goes as far as to predict that 900,000 retail jobs will be lost by 2025 as a result of these combined factors. That is a lot of jobs! To compound this, it seems to be midrange retailers who will be most affected. Meanwhile luxury retailers and discounters will be relatively unscathed.

Perhaps there is a silver lining to be found in these storm clouds?

Well, it does seem that these predicted job losses could have been inflated by an over estimation of automation. If that is the case then 370,000 retail job losses seems more realistic. But people will still be made redundant due to store closures and automation. That’s bad news for all concerned.

Yet, the same report points out that retail is the largest private sector employer in the UK. Not all retail jobs can be automated. Retailers will need efficient supply chains, logistics and analytics in order to deal with the two major issues they face if they are to sustain or increase levels of productivity. Therefore, these changes could result in a sector which continues to grow. As Luba pointed out in her article ‘Starting a Career in Buying and Merchandising’, retail is still predicted to grow £60 billion by 2019.

However, all of this does mean that competition for jobs in this sector will increase.

The same report by the British Retail Consortium  predicts that, while lower paid retail jobs will become increasingly automated, in general, retail jobs will be better jobs. The focus of these jobs will be to improve productivity and, as the skill requirements for retail change, more focus could be given to creative, service and analytical roles.

This could be good news for recent graduates or those retail employees who are keen to upskill. The introduction of the apprenticeship levy means that employers have to have a compulsory fund with which to train new starters (as apprentices) or to upskill their existing workforce. If employers do not utilize the apprenticeship levy, they pay it to the government in tax. Therefore, it is within everyone’s interest for employers to invest in their workforces. Particularly as the skill requirements develop, people should be able to learn as they earn. All of this will increase competition for retail jobs.

As an agency, Amdas already specialize in sourcing candidates who are highly skilled in supply chain, logistics, warehouse management, merchandising, buying, procurement, operations, analytics, space planning, product development, eCommerce and visual merchandising. These roles all come under the three key categories – creative, services and analytical – identified by the British Retailers Consortium. Our clients range from luxury high street retailers, travel retailers and online e-tailers. Many of our clients are now in contact with our sister company; Amdas Training. Amdas training are working on the apprenticeship side to provide training in customer service, team leading and project management.