Economy

Retail sales and employment both tumble

Retail sales and employment both tumble”

Retail, which accounts for just under 10 percent of jobs in Britain, has a lot of low-paid jobs that have been affected by rapid rises in the minimum wage in recent years, as well as a new government training levies and pension requirements.

The CBI poll came after department store Debenhams reported flat United Kingdom sales for the year and a sharp fall in profits as it invests in its performance amid a tough trading environment.

Exactly half of retailers said volumes were down in October compared to a year ago.

Retail sales fell this month at their steepest rate since the recession, according to new figures that add to anxiety over the strength of the economy days ahead of an expected interest rate hike.

British retailers cut jobs over the past three months at the fastest rate since comparable records began in 2008, due to technological change and rising employment costs, the British Retail Consortium said on Thursday.

Average hourly pay in retail was up 4.6% in 2017, compared to 2.9% growth for the United Kingdom economy as a whole, the BRC said.

CBI chief economist Rain Newton-Smith describes it as a "critical" time for a sector that is feeling the pinch from inflation.

A monthly report by the CBI found that 50 per cent of retailers said sales fell in October while only 15 per cent recorded a rise, leaving a rounded balance of minus 36 per cent, the lowest level since March 2009. "The Government can give retailers, especially those on the High Street, some much needed relief in next month's Budget by bringing forward the planned switch of business rates indexation from RPI to CPI".

"The pace of job reductions in the retail industry is gathering steam", BRC chief executive Helen Dickinson said.

"Maintaining productivity gains will be crucial to sustaining wage growth as employers contend with further changes to statutory employment costs".

The CBI's distributive trades survey of 106 firms, including 49 retailers, showed recreational goods and hardware and DIY performing well, while department stores and food and drinks specialists saw sales fall.

"That said, compelling reasons exist to expect consumers to tighten their purse strings over the final months of 2017".



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