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Number of retail workers declines as online shopping takes over

11 October 2017 - 14:54 by Graham Miller

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Figures published by the Office for National Statistics this month show that there has been a 2.2 per cent fall in the number of people working in the UK’s retail sector, with the popularity of safe shopping online being partly blamed.

Retail Week reports that 62,000 jobs were axed from within this industry between April and July of this year. This may not have made much of an impact on the 2.8 million positions for which the entire sector is responsible nationally, but pinpoints the underlying influence that e-commerce is having on traditional outlets.

Analysts pointed out that the closure of BHS has had an especially detrimental impact on employment figures in retail, as 11,000 people lost their jobs when it folded controversially in 2016.

In addition the fact that it is cheaper to operate websites which offer safe shopping online than to keep real world bricks and mortar stores open is putting further pressure on retailers.

Within the next few years it is thought that up to 900,000 people will lose their jobs in retail as companies strive to improve efficiency and ultimately survive the shifting habits of consumers.

Experts believe that more jobs will be lost as human workers are rendered unnecessary by emerging technologies, such as artificial intelligence and robotics.

The predicted decline is seen as inevitable at this point, but some industry representatives are still adopting a positive outlook, arguing that while fewer positions will be available going forwards, those that are on offer will be more rewarding and sustainable in the long term.

Of course, the increase in online shopping is creating jobs in its own right, with distribution centres and delivery work becoming more important as orders are made more regularly by consumers across the UK.