What Can The Retail Industry Do To Reduce Unemployment?

As we all know, Arcadia’s Topshop and Topman is the most recent significant victim of the high street, with its recent acquisition by ASOS and boohoo – creating a total job loss of 13,000 in the UK. 

Retail workers now face new, record levels of unemployment. However, a return-to-work-soon is expected, with furlough schemes due to end, along with a much needed recovery plan for the retail sector, and the high levels of unemployment caused by the pandemic.

This is an opportunity to create a forward-thinking workforce beyond the pandemic, and successful retailers must do what they can to reduce unemployment in the industry — but how?

  • Employment and disability 

In order to reduce the number of people who are out of work due to a disability, The Minister for Disabled People, Health and Work launched a campaign in 2018, which retailers can voluntarily opt in to. It’s called the “Disability Confident” employer scheme, and it provides employers with the skills, examples and confidence to recruit and develop disabled employees. 

The government aims to see one million more disabled people in work by 2027, and this is a great opportunity for retailers who are doing well in the industry to expand their workforce. Big branches such as Asda, Barclays, and B&M Bargains have already committed, and are setting an example. 

  • Encouraging a diverse workforce

In 2017, it was reported that retail companies in the FTSE 100 are ahead of other industries when it comes to gender diversity.

Retailers should focus on broadening their selection process when it comes to the recruitment process, ensuring that those who’ve lost a job in a retail position face equal opportunity when it comes to finding a new role. Encouraging diversity in gender and cultural background when hiring – is not only beneficial for employees, but also for the business itself. 

Ultimately, when a workforce is representative of a customer base, it can lead to a better understanding of the target market, and an improvement in business performance. 

  • Charity collaboration 

Another way to reduce unemployment levels is to collaborate with charities who are there to help those who are struggling to find work. Partnering with a disabled or mental health charity for example, – can help you reach those who are out of work because of a disability or a health issue and encourage them to apply. 

One example of this is men’s shirts retailer, CT Shirts. The company has a long-standing partnership with the Prince’s Trust, which involves fundraising and a mutually beneficial relationship. The charity works closely with vulnerable young people who need a helping hand to get their lives back on track.

Like many retailers that The Trust works with, CT Shirts took advantage of one of their “Get Hired” days — a day of greetings and interviews with young people who have been through The Prince’s Trust Programmes to get to know some potential employees. 

  • Cross-discipline training 

It’s true that for many retailers, whilst the jobs of their in-store employees may be at risk, often recruitment in their digital marketing and e-commerce teams are still growing. 

Therefore, an important consideration to make is whether retail employees should be trained in other areas of the business too. Or at least, should their knowledge of the company and its’ products or services be valued, so that they’re allowed to progress in another area of the business after redundancy?

There are advantages and disadvantages to this idea, but it’s certainly something for retailers to think about before making mass redundancies across the business. Cross-discipline training can also encourage more loyal employees, and therefore those who are more invested in the performance of the retail business as a whole. 

There is a range of considerations that retailers are currently making or should think about when it comes to reducing unemployment, and as some companies pave the way, it’s down to other industry players to make big changes, too.