2019 was an atrocious year for the British retail sector, which lost more than 140,000 jobs over the last year - that is almost 400 jobs per day. Worse is still to come: for 2020, experts fear an even bigger onslaught.
The retail sector suffers from high costs, low margins and an evolution towards online shopping, director Joshua Bamfield of the Center for Retail Research (CRR) says: "These problems are felt by most businesses operating from physical stores in high streets or shopping malls", he told The Guardian. "The low growth in consumer spending since 2015 has meant that the growth in online sales has come at the expense of the high street."
38,100 jobs were lost in bankruptcies (most importantly Coast and Karen Millen), while 26,000 jobs disappeared in the controversial company voluntary arrangement scheme (an insolvency procedure used by the Arcadia group and Debenhams). Several other cost-cutting measures at retailers like Marks & Spencer and House of Fraser axed 79,000 jobs.
Worse before getting better
That makes a grand total of 143,100 retail jobs lost in just one year, a huge leap from 117,000 in 2018. The number of British stored that closed altogether was 16,073 last year, compared to 14,583 the year before. Moreover, the CRR expects both numbers still to rise in 2020, if the British government does not take adequate measures.
Despite the carnage, the British retail sector remains the biggest private employer in the United Kingdom, employing around three million people.