A “DIGITAL revolution” in shopping could wipe out 900,000 jobs in the next 10 years, the British Retail Consortium (BRC) warned yesterday.
The body representing industry bosses claimed the growing trend towards online shopping, coupled with the introduction of a higher minimum wage, could see the workforce shrink dramatically.
Its report said 15 per cent of sales are now made online and there are about 40,000 fewer shops now than 10 years ago.
But shop workers’ union Usdaw warned that bosses would be making a “false economy” by slashing staff in the face of cyber-competition.
Union general secretary John Hannett said: “Retail is a challenging environment at the moment, but retailers need to invest in their workforce if they want to retain customers and achieve growth.
“Cutting back on staff numbers to make cost savings is a false economy. Shopworkers are vital in providing positive customer experiences and short-staffing has an adverse impact on customer-service levels.”
The consortium’s report said that the introduction of the so-called national living wage will cost the industry up to an extra £3 billion a year by 2020, although it added that retailers are generally supportive of the principle behind the living wage.
Other extra costs are likely to come from business rate increases and the apprenticeship levy which is due to be introduced next April.
Mr Hannett said: “We are pleased that the BRC has recognised that low pay is an issue in the sector. Usdaw will continue to make the case for a real living wage for all workers.”