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85,000 jobs lost on UK high streets in a year

Tom Belger
Finance and policy reporter
A Closing Down sale sign in a shop store window UK (Photo by: Photofusion/Universal Images Group via Getty Images)

British retailers have shed 85,000 jobs in the past year as the UK high street’s woes continue to grow, according to new figures.

Bricks-and-mortar stores are struggling with weak consumer demand as well as Brexit uncertainty, on top of a longstanding shift in consumer habits towards online shopping.

The number of workers sank despite official figures showing wider UK employment at a record high, new data from the British Retail Consortium (BRC) on Thursday shows.

Britain saw a fall in both full-time and part-time work as well as a drop in average hours worked in the three months to October compared to the same period a year earlier.

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The figures come only a few days after separate data showed the number of profit warnings by UK-listed firms hit its highest level since the financial crisis, with a significant number on retail.

Data by accountancy firm EY showed FTSE retail firm profit warnings spike at an eight-year high.

EY said sales had slowed both in stores and online, with the “odds stacked against some retailers” ahead of their biggest sales period in the final quarter.

The BRC’s chief executive Helen Dickinson hit out at MPs for failing to do more for the high street, where retailers have warned repeatedly over business rates, rising employment costs and extra burdens compared to online rivals.

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She said: “While MPs rail against job losses in manufacturing, their response to larger losses in retail has remained muted.

“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. In order to promote innovation, training and productivity, government must reform both the broken business rates system, and the inflexibilities of the apprenticeship levy.”

A separate analysis released on Thursday also forecasts pay growth slowing in the coming year across the wider UK private sector.

XpertHR said the average pay rise would slow from an average of 2.5% in the past year to 2.1%, despite high employment levels typically putting upward pressure on wages.

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