A new report by industry charity the Retail Trust has found that one in five (21%) British retail workers and nearly a third (31%) of people working for the UK’s biggest retailers are planning to quit the sector.
The Retail Trust’s survey of more than 1,500 retail staff, published within its new Health of Retail report, found that most of those intending to leave blame concerns around their finances, rising levels of abuse from customers, and deteriorating mental health coming out of the pandemic.
More than eight out of 10 (83%) said they have experienced a decline in their mental health in the last year, with retail workers aged between aged 16 and 29, those working in distribution and warehouses, and employees of larger retailers found to be struggling the most.
Around 85% of retail managers also reported an increase in mental health problems among their teams and more than half (54%) said team members have experienced issues that they felt ill-equipped to deal with.
A quarter (26%) of retail managers say they also want to leave the industry.
The Retail Trust also interviewed leaders of 20 household name retailers for its Health of Retail report and worked with employee engagement platform WorkL to assess the wellbeing of a further 4,500 retail workers, which found that retail is one of the unhappiest industries to work in compared to other sectors.
Despite the declining levels of mental health across the workforce, half of the retail leaders that the Retail Trust spoke to said they believed the wellbeing of employees had improved over the last year and nearly a third said they believed it had stayed the same.
Retail workers aged 16-29 are the unhappiest, in contrast to other studies which found that happiness usually peaks at 16-years-old, and this could prevent younger workers from building a career within the industry from the shop floor
The study also found that female retail workers are unhappier than their male counterparts. However, male retail workers are less likely to reach out in a crisis and could require earlier intervention from their employers as a result
Prioritising the wellbeing of employees and retail managers specifically will have a big impact on a retailer’s commercial performance
“People working in retail have moved from one period of turmoil to another,” Retail Trust CEO Chris Brook-Carter said.
“They are exhausted after two years of a global pandemic and now facing a world dominated by a brutal war while coming to terms with a cost of living crisis, with inflation at a 40-year-high, that threatens to put our standards of living back decades.”
Ann Summers chief people officer added: “Our teams can be very diverse and we see the extremes, from suicidal thoughts to ‘I’m feeling really low today and can’t get to work’.
“We need to help with managers with how they deal with those conversations so they are not expected to take on incredibly complex issues but can get the right support and signpost to organisations like the Retail Trust who can help.”