Retailer confidence is at a three-year low

The British Independent Retailers Association’s business confidence barometer, which forms part of Bira’s annual Wages Survey, showed 50.8% of retailers are feeling anxious, which is significantly higher than in 2018 (40.83%). The number of retailers feeling very confident showed a decline too, with only 7.1% feeling very confident, which is down on 2018 and 2017 (8.28% and 12.5%).

The Wages Survey is an annual questionnaire of Bira’s membership to gauge how employment costs are affecting their businesses and also to see how confident they are about the future. The National Association of Health Stores is a member of Bira.

Despite the lack of confidence, retailers have been able to increase the number of full-time staff they are employing with 76.2% of respondents currently employing full time staff, which is a big improvement on 2018 (53.46%).

Wages are also showing some good signs with the full-time hourly staff rates at an average of £8.53 per hour, 32p above the current National Living Wage of £8.21. However, retailers did say that the low basic salary had impacted their ability to attract the right staff.

One of the biggest signs that confidence among retailers is low is that only 17.3% of respondents said they were currently recruiting. Perhaps this could be accounted for by the increase in retailers being able to support flexible working and therefore more staff can be retained. Just over 82% of retailers said they were able to accommodate all flexible working requests from staff, while 64.3% were also able to offer a pay rise this year, another way to retain staff.

CEO Andrew Goodacre said: “Despite the current doom and gloom, the retail industry is still one of the largest employers in the UK, employing three million people. It is many young people’s first step into working life and it can form a lifelong, exciting career for many. The Government needs to work with retailers to ensure that this industry is still considered to be a worthy career choice, helping businesses to employ the best people.”

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