We all look for cheap deals for everything we want online, but everything filters down – not least on jobs, which are predicted to be massively affected by the boom in online trading, according to the British Retail Consortium (BRC). The shift in demand to the internet and away from shops, it says, could result in as many as 900,000 jobs being lost across the sector by 2025.
The closure of thousands of shops on the high street is expected, according to its latest publication, and that factors seen as positive by the general public – including the apprenticeship levy and the national living wage – could hugely affect the rate of unemployment.
“Areas that are already economically fragile are likely to see the greatest impact of store closures,” the report explained, “and some of the people affected by changing roles will be those who may find it hardest to transition into new jobs that are created.” This is compounded by the report’s prediction that around 30% of the closures could take place in the north of England, as well as Wales – two places already hugely affected by the current economic climate.
Timing couldn’t have been worse, in many ways; on the same day the report was published, Amazon revealed that it had entered a partnership with Morrisons to sell fresh and frozen food British consumers. It also plans to expand on its clothing line-ups, following huge successes in entertainment and books – its initial offering as a business.
Speaking to the BBC, Sir Charlie Mayfield, chairman of the BRC, told the BBC: “People are not realising just how significantly the workplace is changing and I think that is dangerous. It means that people assume that somehow things are going to carry on as they are, when that’s unlikely. Some of the places that will be affected will be some of the most economically fragile.”
He did say, however, that persistent low pay is a very important thing to oppose, and that it could lead to “fewer but better” jobs.
Sir Charlie added: “What the national living wage does is that it increases the pace at which wages will rise – and by the way that’s not a bad thing, it’s in many ways a very good thing – but it will also probably accelerate some of the changes within the workforce and the responses that retailers make in order to mitigate some of the rising cost pressure that they’re seeing.”