UK retail recovery is being hampered by staff shortages

The UK retail sector’s recovery is being hampered by a lack of staff driving demand for trained workers to its highest level since 1988.

According to new data from KPMG and the Recruitment & Employment Confederation (REC) companies across the UK starting to ramp up their businesses after lockdown are struggling to fill positions.

Despite demand for new workers hitting their highest level for 23 years, the data suggests the supply of trained staff is shrinking at its fastest level in four years.

This shortage, which has reportedly shot up in all 10 job categories monitored by the researchers, is largely due to ongoing pandemic uncertainty and the impact of Brexit, seeing a sharp fall in workers from the European union.

READ MORE: Amazon to hire 10,000 new UK staff in latest major recruitment drive

While catering and IT saw the steepest increases, the shortage was beginning to impact the retail sector too, with many workers who had spent months on furlough choosing to move sectors over the past year.

Fashion retailers are understood to be some of the hardest hit, followed closely by small independent retailers which employ under 1000 staff.

Figures from Fourth and Censuswide in April revealed that 42 per cent of smaller retailers thought Brexit had made hiring harder, followed by around 35 per cent of larger retailers with over 5000 employees.

According to The Telegraph Cornish fashion retailer SeaSalt believes its struggle to fill in-store roles is due to many workers returning home to the EU during the pandemic and not returning as the economy reopened.

Discount retailer B&M also says it is facing a sever shortage of heavy goods vehicle drivers, warning that the shortage could lead to higher business costs.

“With demand spiking, the skills and labour shortages that already existed in the UK have come into sharper focus – and Covid has only made them worse,” REC deputy chief executive Kate Shoesmith said.

“This is the most pressing issue in the jobs market right now, and has the potential to slow down the recovery.”

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