UK retail sector second-most in need of staff, research reveals

13 July 2022, 10:14 AM
  • As the cost-of-living crisis bites, retailers are desperately in need of skilled staff to keep businesses going in the build-up to Christmas
UK retail sector second-most in need of staff, research reveals

Recent research from has revealed a record high of 1.3 million job vacancies over the past three months, with both retail and hospitality highly in need of skilled workers

Almost topping the table as the second-most in need of staff was the retail and wholesale industry, with 33,587 job listings available on Indeed in June. Product managers (6,734) and sales assistants (5,397) are the most in-demand jobs within this industry.

Coming in fifth place for advertised job roles was the hospitality sector, which reported a staggering £21 billion loss caused by staff shortages, as a result of reduced trading hours; putting consequential strain on restaurant and food services staff and businesses nationwide. The biggest need in this sector was for chefs (5,072) and waiting staff (3,388).

While retail and hospitality are two of the sectors that have seen the largest increase in vacancies this year, hiring is an issue across the food and drink industry – and beyond.

With summer in full swing and the build-up to Christmas on the horizon, indie retailers and businesses with hospitality venues will need skilled staff to keep providing top-quality service. 

The strain on small businesses
While the multiples can (within reason) hire anyone needing a job, indie retailers need to be much more selective about who will be looking after their shops. They need someone passionate about fine food, and interested in the food industry.

Martin McTague, national chair of the Federation of Small Businesses, explained, “A third of small businesses say finding appropriately skilled staff is one of the largest barriers to growth.”

This is something Svetlana Kukharchuk, owner of The Cheese Lady has found challenging. “It has to be the right kind of thing for them and for us,” she told Speciality Food. “I don’t want somebody who just needs a job, so they need to be passionate. They need to be at least a foodie, if not a cheeseaholic. And then the cheese knowledge we can teach.”

“Small accommodation and hospitality businesses operating in rural areas also report difficulties in recruiting and are wrestling with labour shortages”, Martin added.

According to Luiza Gomes, HR policy adviser at the British Retail Consortium, “As a large employer in the service industry, retail is reliant on complex supply chains with many of the roles in shortage being traditionally filled by highly skilled non-UK workers.

“This shortfall has also been impacted by a restricted apprenticeship levy that does not address the skills that are currently scarce in the UK labour market. Ultimately, this underlines the urgent need to expand the funding to allow retailers to upskill their current workforce to meet the demands of the future.”

The solution to staffing
With Christmas fast approaching, there is much that needs to be done to help businesses find and retain the staff they need. 

Martin told Speciality Food, “We encourage Government to do all it can to make the skills system work for small businesses, for example, extending financial incentives to SMEs which take on an apprentice, and making the transfer of levy funds to businesses in supply chains even simpler. The apprenticeship levy should not be reformed into a broader training levy, to ensure that small businesses can continue to access a 95% Government contribution.

“Immigration policy can also provide solutions, particularly if the costs of visas can be reduced. Extending Youth Mobility Schemes, for example to EU countries without quotas, and including them as part of our future Free Trade Agreements will help alleviate the widespread labour shortage and increase small businesses’ access to skilled staff.”

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