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Almost 10,000 retail jobs already lost this year, research shows

By Simon Neville, PA City Editor

Nearly 10,000 jobs have been lost in retail since the start of 2020, according to new research.

Debenhams, Mothercare and Asda are among several big brands to have closed stores or announced redundancy plans.

A total of 9,949 positions have gone, analysis by the Centre for Retail Research found, with a further 1,200 jobs under threat with the collapse of department store Beales and toy retailer Hawkin’s Bazaar in the past week.

Other retailers closing stores or cutting jobs include Game, HMV, Arcadia and Morrisons.

Large-scale store closures have been widely blamed on the huge shift to shopping online.

But despite changing consumer habits, owners of retail property are putting their faith in 5G wireless technology as a potential high street saviour, a separate report has found.

Around 66% of top British executives see cashier-less retail as one of the top two beneficial innovations to come with the introduction of 5G, according to Altus Group’s annual Commercial Real Estate Innovation Report.

A further 77% said they expect the benefits of new tech in automated stock ordering to also help the struggling sector.

The report surveyed 400 major property owners and investors with more than £200 million of assets under management.

Executives hope 5G will allow retailers to use both augmented reality and virtual reality to enhance the customer experience, while improving stock efficiencies and eliminating queues at checkouts.

The report acknowledges one of the short-term impacts of new technology could lead to further job losses, but executives said they believe it could also mean job creation in the longer term.

Scott Morey, executive director at Altus Group, said: “5G presents a great opportunity for retailers to further improve the underlying performance of their physical stores by transforming the customer experience and shifting the role of their store personnel towards higher value tasks.

“Shoppers fundamentally rely on stores during various stages of their shopping journey and 5G has the potential to further improve that interaction.”

The findings provide a more optimistic outlook than forecasts by the Office for National Statistics, which predict 65% of all retail cashiers and checkout operator jobs will become redundant in future, as will 60% of staff working in stock control.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson is set to decide later this week whether to allow the use of Chinese Huawei technology in Britain’s new 5G network despite protests from the US Government.

Mr Morey added: “Whilst 5G will transform the consumer experience, the starting point will be for telecom companies and real estate owners to provide the infrastructure and physical location points so 5G can reach its full potential.”