Why are retailers facing staff shortages?

Oct 22, 2021
Author: Pete Wilmer
Pete leads the Corporate Finance offering at Hawsons, Pete specialises in advising business acquisitions and disposals, raising finance, business valuations and employee ownership trusts (EOT).
Retail staff shortage

Retail staff decrease

Retailers have now resumed trading as they seek to get business back on track following the forced closures of the pandemic. However, since their return, they now face a new challenge, staff shortages. Recent data shows that in the second quarter of 2021 the UK retail industry lost 89,000 jobs compared to the same period in 2020. Although retail sales have been strong over the past few months, the number of jobs in retail fell to around 3.015 million (latest figures from Office of National Statistics).


Why are retailers facing staff shortages?

It has been found that the decrease in the retail workforce is down to a number of factors. Firstly, the low footfall in city centres and shopping centres, secondly, the increasing number of vacant stores and finally being in direct competition with the hospitality sector for jobs. Vacancies in the retail sector reached over 1 million between June and August 2021, the first time this unwanted milestone has been reached since records began.

On the face of it, it is surprising that retailers are struggling to find new staff considering that many retail staff lost their jobs during the pandemic.  However, retailers are usually reliant on EU nationals to fill vacant retail roles and the combination of travel restrictions and the new Brexit rules explain why retailers are currently facing such staff shortages. Industry commentators are also suggesting that the sector has become less attractive to potential recruits due to a perceived lack of job security.

In combination, these factors are resulting in a very challenging employment market.


Retailers seek to improve employee retention

Unsurprisingly, research has found that the retail and hospitality sector were the highest recruiters over the past three months and the majority of candidates have been removed from the market.  Therefore, retailers will need to think creatively about their benefits packages to entice people in to the sector and retain current employees.


How can we help?

At Hawsons we have a dedicated team of retail, wholesale, and e-commerce accountants at our offices in Sheffield, Doncaster, and Northampton. Our specialist team offers a wide range of services which are tailored to meet your individual needs. Our understanding of the issues faced by the retail, wholesale and e-commerce sector means that we can proactively seek out ways for you to maximise your profitability and minimise your tax liabilities.

Free initial meeting

Pete Wilmer

Senior Partner & Head of Corporate Finance, Sheffield

0114 266 7141

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