Is Tech Investment Taking Away Retail Jobs?

Retail jobs have fallen in the third quarter of 2017

Retail jobs have fallen in the third quarter of 2017, compared with the same period last year, according to figures from the British Retail Consortium (BRC).

The study found that working hours in retail fell by 4.2% in the third quarter year on year, and reductions in hours were seen in both full-time and part-time contracts – the fastest rate of decline since BRC began monitoring these figures in 2008.

Chief executive at BRC, Helen Dickinson, said this was due to an increase in technology adoption in the retail space. 

She said: “The pace of job reductions in the retail industry is gathering steam,” she said. “The three months to September saw the sharpest year-on-year drop in hours and employment since the monitor started in 2008. Behind this shrinking of the workforce is both a technological revolution in retail, which is reducing demand for labour, and government policy, which is driving up the cost of employment.”

Advanced digital technologies are becoming more integrated into the retail workplace, not only reducing the need for retail workers, but also requiring retailers to teach their employees new skills to ensure the store’s tech has value.   

Dickinson added: “The challenge for retailers will be in maintaining the pace of productivity improvement as they come up against shortages of the skills needed for a new, digital-dependent industry,”

Despite falling, retail employment BRC found more stores are opening, with convenience shopping boosting the number of stores in the UK by 2.4% in the third quarter.

The shift in consumer behaviour results from higher consumer expectation driven by disruptive shopping platforms.

This is leading to a number of retailers to implement in-store and online technologies to cater to the new way customers are shopping, including self-checkouts and digital kiosks.   

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