The British Retail Consortium (BRC) has called on the government to take “all necessary precautions” to prevent another lockdown after 67,000 retail jobs have been lost in the past year due to Covid-19.
The plea comes in response to the latest ONS job figures, which also show that employment levels in the sector have dropped to three million – some of the lowest levels since 1999.
With non-essential retail stores closed since late last year, the BRC also reported that 600,000 of the sector’s workers are on furlough – a figure which has risen by 200,000 since December.
Helen Dickinson, chief executive of the group has said this is a figure which is “likely to get worse” if the UK’s third lockdown is extended.
Currently, non-essential retail is expected to reopen on 12 April, with Dickinson stating that “any delays to the prime minister’s roadmap will undoubtedly result in more store closures and threaten the livelihoods of the retail workers currently furloughed”.
She said: “Now is the time to rebuild the economy. Retail remains the largest private sector employer in the UK, meaning the strength of the industry remains important for the economy at large.
“Retailers are working incredibly hard to ensure stores and operations are safe and ready for reopening, and it is essential that all retail is open and remains open, if it is to unlock the demand which will kickstart our economic recovery.”