Wednesday, February 21

High street job losses hit 100,000 during the pandemic



Pressure is mounting on the Government to step in to save the retail sector after 7,000 redundancies at Marks & Spencer took the toll of high street jobs lost since the pandemic to more than 100,000.

Pizza Express also announced 1,100 job losses tonight, with plans to permanently close 73 restaurants.

And The Centre for Retail Research has warned that job losses across the sector could hit 235,704 this year, with more than 20,600 store closures.

Centre director Prof Joshua Bamfield said: There are going to be a lot more job losses full stop, and many of them will be in the retail sector.

Writing in the Mirror, Paddy Lillis, General Secretary of shopworkers’ union USDAW, said: Retail is an important feature of our towns and cities, it employs three million people and we need a stimulus package to save the industry.

Labour repeated its call for a Hospitality and High Streets Fightback Fund.

Shadow Business Secretary Lucy Powell said: The scale of job losses was not inevitable, but the incompetence of this government means we’re now seeing wave after wave of redundancies, and store closures.

These job losses are devastating for the workers involved, yet they also tell a much bigger story about the threat to our high streets.

Richard Lim, chief executive of the consultants Retail Economics, said: “The reality is that many more retailers will fail and the number of job losses will ramp up as government support is withdrawn. This is the calm before the storm.

Most of the M&S redundancies, which are on top of the 950 announced in July, will be in stores, with around 12% of 60,000 shop-based staff losing their jobs over the next three months.

The cull has been blamed on the impact of the coronavirus crisis, but M&S chief executive Steve Rowe, who made £1.2million in pay and perks last year, said the cuts were “an important step in becoming a leaner, faster business”.

Clothing and homeware sales in M&S stores are down almost 48%, while online sales have risen 39% in the past eight weeks, with 1.9million new online customers since the start of the year.

John Lewis, Boots, and Debenhams are also among the big names to have announced job cuts. Debenhams last week confirmed 2,500 redundancies and said it was considering liquidation, putting 14,000 jobs at risk.

The Mirror has championed the cause of town centres through our High Street Fightback campaign and Shop for Britain drive.

More than 180,000 jobs across all sectors have been announced by large employers since the Covid-19 outbreak.

There are fears of worse to come when the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, which has paid the wages of 9.6million furloughed workers, ends in October.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak also introduced a business rates holiday, which will run until next March.