BRC leading calls for more to be done to protect the retail industry

According to the latest data from the British Retail Consortium (BRC), there were around 85,000 job losses in the retail sector in the past year.

The release of the figures has prompted calls for the Government to overhaul its high street policies to ease the pressures faced by retail businesses.

It is believed that factors including weak consumer demand, rising costs and the switch to online shopping, as well as the uncertainty regarding the UK’s departure from the European Union have caused retail businesses to take steps in a bid to tackle the crisis on Britain’s high street.

Most recently, fashion chain Bonmarche went into administration, with almost 3,000 jobs at risk, while just weeks before jobs were lost at both Karen Millen and Coast, who both closed all their stores after also falling into administration.

Larger retailers have also seen store closures and job losses, including Mothercare, New Look, Marks & Spencer and House of Fraser, while Debenhams is set to close some stores in early 2020.

A significant portion of retail job losses are as a result of cost-cutting, as businesses try to counterbalance cost increases caused by the rise in the legal minimum wage, higher business rates and an increase in the cost of goods as a result of the Brexit-led fall in the value of the pound.

This has led to a 2.8 per cent decrease in the number of retail employees in the three months before the end of September compared to the same period a year ago.

Ministers have provided some financial support in the form of a £1 billion ‘Future High Streets Fund’ in a bid to help struggling town centres reinvent themselves. However, many feel more needs to be done to fix the problems.

BRC chief executive, Helen Dickinson, said: “Weak consumer demand and Brexit uncertainty continue to put pressure on retailers already focused on delivering the transformation taking place in the industry.

“The Government should enact policies that enable retailers to invest more in the millions of people who choose to build their careers in retail.

“To promote innovation, training and productivity, the Government must reform both the broken business rates system and the inflexibilities of the apprenticeship levy.”