Retail employment revolution

Brought to you by Retail Insider and K3 Retail

When the headlines deliver a constant stream of stories about shop closures and the abandonment of new store developments it is hardly surprising that employment prospects in the sector appear extremely poor.

When you add in the developments around automation then it all sounds pretty woeful for the jobs situation in the retail industry. That is one viewpoint. The other is somewhat more positive.

While stores are being closed by some businesses (others continue to expand of course) the fact is that pretty much every retailer will be growing their online operations. The result of this is greater requirements for warehouse space.

Retailers selling online took 12.2 million sq ft of new warehouse space over the past year compared with just 1.5 million sq ft in 2008, with a massive four million sq ft taken by Amazon alone.

Such facilities require people. In the US (where e-commerce is less mature than in the UK) there has been a 90% increase in warehousing jobs since 2000. It’s obvious that the skill-sets required in a warehouse will be different from those on the shop floor. The stereotypical view of warehouse jobs will undoubtedly mean they are deemed a lot less attractive proposition than working on the shop floor of a high street store.

The upside, however, is that in the US the average salary of warehouse jobs is calculated to be around 50% higher than retail jobs. And it would be wrong to say that all warehouse roles are about unskilled labour shifting boxes around. There is a need for a much broader range of skills and people with various attributes and qualifications.

We all know that retail is in the midst of a digital transformation. The scenario of stores closing while warehouses open is just one facet of the changing dynamic. As consumers choose to shop in new ways then the people serving them will need to understand that the job market is also changing. This should not (in principle!) be too difficult as they are of course the very same people.

Glynn Davis, editor of Retail Insider

K3 Retail deliver multi-channel solutions that enable retailers to create joined up shopping experiences for their customers whether they choose to buy on-line, direct, in-store or via mobile. It has over 20 years’ experience delivering award winning solutions, to more than 175 internationally recognised retail brands.