Retail employment fell at the fastest rate since February 2009 in the year to August, with an even sharper decline anticipated in the year to September, according to the CBI’s latest monthly Distributive Trades Survey.
The survey – which featured 63 retailers among its 128 respondents – also showed a slight fall in retail sales compared with a year ago, which comes after broadly flat sales in the year to July, while a faster fall is expected next month.
The decline was broad-based across sectors, with only grocers, furniture and carpets, non-store and ‘other’ goods sales seeing growth.
Retail sales were, on average, 27% lower than in ‘normal’ conditions. This represents a significant improvement on the last time this question was asked in June (-79%).
Other survey findings included a fall in orders for the sixteenth consecutive month, while stock levels in relation to expected sales eased to their lowest since March.
Alpesh Paleja, CBI lead economist, said: “The furlough scheme has proved effective at insulating workers and businesses in some of the worst-hit sectors during the pandemic, but these findings reinforce fears that many job losses have been delayed rather than avoided.
“Indeed, the latest survey shows that trading conditions for the retail sector remain tough, even against the backdrop of business slowly returning. Firms will be wary of deteriorating household incomes and the risk of further local lockdowns potentially hitting them in the pocket for a second time.”
He added: “As a result, further support may well be needed for the retail sector if demand continues to disappoint. Extending business rates relief will go a long way towards alleviating pressure on retailers’ cash flow.”