Online sales singled out for impact on retail jobs

Online shopping will have more impact on retail jobs than the National Living Wage (NLW), apprenticeship levies and price deflation, according to Garden Centre Association chief executive Iain Wylie.

Image: HW
Image: HW

A new British Retail Consortium report says rising costs because of the NLW and the new apprenticeship levy could mean 900,000 job cuts by 2025. Wylie said: "There's a big argument thrown into the mix that online shopping is in that as well. If anything, in some ways, for certain sectors that could be as big a danger."

The NLW is "very much a short-term problem as businesses have to find a lot of extra cash very quickly", he said. "It was something retailers were not expecting in the long-term in their strategies."

Wylie said feedback from members concerned pay differentials between skilled and unskilled staff and whether they could be maintained. He explained that because pay costs would rise throughout the supply chain "the cost of products will go up regardless of retailers' costs, so it's not just a retailer problem".

On other big political concerns, Wylie added that with councils set to be able to decide whether they allow extensions from six-hour opening on Sundays by autumn, garden retailers are worried that if their centre is close to a council border then a rival in another council might be able to open for longer than they can on Sundays. Retailers say they could make £70m by opening longer than the current six-hour Sunday limit, adding that shoppers can buy from online retailers 24/7.

He said customers would then be as confused about Sunday opening hours as they are about current Easter Sunday opening laws, which do not allow garden centres to open. This year's early Easter Sunday (27 March) and Mothering Sunday (6 March) are a weather concern for garden centres, he added. They are "quietly confident" on sales given good weather and that January sales were partly down because there was less need for sales after a strong Christmas, while February sales could have been better, not least because of the leap year's extra day.

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