One million retail jobs could go without Government backing, says Fabian Society

Updated: 

One million retail jobs could go without Government backing, says Fabian SocietyThe retail industry could lose one million jobs unless it is given Government support, a new report warns.

A year-long review by the Fabian Society found that the rapid growth of online shopping and rising business costs threatens to change the sector forever.

The political think tank said retail employs more workers than any other industry, but had been "conspicuous in its absence" from every major government speech on industrial strategy.

A task force of retailers and unions found that some firms were squeezing costs, outsourcing whole areas of their business and paying staff as little as legally possible, while others were replacing workers with technology.

Norman Pickavance, former communications director at Morrisons, who chaired the task force, said: "Retail is at the crossroads.

"Online retailers threaten to destroy high streets and pound shops are sprouting up in the space that's been left behind.

"As a result, the retail sector is threatened with one million job losses or a continued rise of precarious low-skill, low-pay employment practices.

"Our analysis highlights that failure to include the retail sector in the modern industrial strategy is a glaring omission.

"There is an alternative path for retail where focused investment and policy changes can stimulate innovation, create better jobs and help to renew the vitality and fabric of urban and rural communities."

A Business Department spokesman said: "The launch of the Industrial Strategy Green Paper reflects our commitment to delivering jobs and economic growth to every community and corner of the country.

"Government recognises that businesses understand best the challenges and priorities in their industry and our consultation invites sectors, including retail, to come to us with proposals for how we can help them respond to future challenges and opportunities." 

Chi Onwurah, shadow business minister, said: "This is further evidence that Theresa May's industrial strategy is little more than window-dressing for continued managed decline under the Tories.

"Last week's Green Paper had almost nothing to say about retail, and this report underlines the failure of this Government to respond to urgent challenges such as automation and low productivity."