Food retail growth powers highest rate in 2 years, BRC says

Jobs in the food retail sector are powering retail employment growth to its fastest rate for two years, according to latest figure from the British Retail Consortium (BRC).

The BRC-Bond Pearce retail employment monitor figures for the third quarter showed that part-time workers were driving the increase in figures to an equivalent of 20,533 full-time jobs but warned that this may be the result of the ‘unique period’ dominated by the London Olympics.

Christina Tolvas-Vincent, head of retail employment at business law firm Bond Pearce, said: “We can look at these figures with cautious optimism; 20,500 extra jobs is certainly good news but it masks the divided fortunes of the food and non-food retailers. It may also reflect, in part, the impact of the Olympics and the extra hours of Sunday Trading during that time. The fall in the number of unemployed 16-24-year-olds would certainly seem to fit with an increase in temporary jobs available in this unique period.”

She said that there are still several trading months ahead of the busy Christmas period and that more than 68% of retailers intended to take on more staff in the run up to the holiday period but that this may not be enough to stimulate employment among non-food retailers. She said: “In the New Year, when everyone traditionally tightens their belts, and there is no Jubilee or Olympics for the nation to focus on, it will no doubt be the non-food retailers that will be most concerned.”

BRC director general Stephen Robertson said: “The strongest retail jobs growth for two years looks like another reason for optimism. With good news about employment generally, signs that disposable incomes, consumer spending and inflation are moving in the right direction and expectations that we’re about to see GDP growth return to positive territory, there’s a sense that things could be getting better. That offers hope as the crucial Christmas trading period gathers pace.

“But it’s important not to get too carried away. Our headline figures hide wide variations in retail performance. All the growth in jobs and shop numbers is coming from the food sector. In non-food retailing employment is flat and shops are closing down.

“It’s vital the government supports stronger and more widespread growth, rather than choking it off. After two huge increases in two years, Business Rates should be frozen next April to avoid more boarded up shops and fewer employment opportunities, especially for young people.”

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