High street crisis: Retail workers should transfer skills to other sectors as job losses mount, say experts

Demand for permanent staff increased in 'vast majority' of other job categories during April, says recruitment industry body

Ben Chapman
Wednesday 09 May 2018 00:01 BST
Maplin has been one of many retailers to struggle with rising costs and increased competition from online-only retailers
Maplin has been one of many retailers to struggle with rising costs and increased competition from online-only retailers

Wages rose in April amid strong demand for candidates, but the number of retail vacancies dropped sharply as the crisis on the high street worsened, a recruitment industry survey has found.

Growth of overall job vacancies picked up to a three-month high in April, the Recruitment and Employment Confederation said.

Demand for permanent staff increased in the “vast majority” of job categories during the month, with the notable exception of retail, the REC said. The study of 400 recruitment consultancies found that engineering and IT saw the steepest increases in vacancies.

​REC director of policy Tom Hadley said the high-profile struggles of many retailers indicated it was a good time for staff to consider how they could transfer their skills into other roles, such as in the technology sector or as pickers and packers in distribution centres.

“Helping people make career transitions will become increasingly important in this fast-changing business and employment landscape,” he said.

New Look, Debenhams and a host of other retailers have announced job cuts in recent months while Maplin and Toys R Us will cease trading altogether.

In contrast to the bleak picture on the high street, demand for permanent staff across the economy grew at a sharper pace in April than in the previous month, while short-term staff vacancies also rose, the REC said.

Pay growth quickened in April compared to March, which will come as relief to workers whose wages rose slower than inflation for much of last year.

The Midlands registered the strongest rise in permanent appointments in April, while the weakest was seen in London. Scotland continued to record the steepest increase in spend on temporary staff.

Mr Hadley said now could also be a good time for employees to move jobs or negotiate higher pay as demand for staff rises.

“Our data shows that employers are paying more to attract the right people into their vacancies.”

He added: “For employers, the challenge is to stay ahead of the competition to maintain and enhance your workforce.

“This is about more than just pay, it is about providing progression opportunities and a positive workplace culture.”

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