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Industry News

Published on October 27th, 2017 | by The GC Team


Retail pay growth faster than UK average

The British Retail Consortium (BRC) analysis of the Office for National Statistics’ Annual Survey of Hours and Earnings indicates that “the UK retail industry is continuing to make faster progress in raising pay than the economy as a whole.”

Average hourly pay in retail was up 4.6% in 2017, compared to 2.9% growth for the wider UK economy. Retail has also had more success in closing the gender pay gap, which is lower in retail than for the UK economy as a whole and has fallen over the last year from 11.0% to 9.2%.

The spread of average hourly retail wages is between £10.15 (London) and £7.75 (Northern Ireland), and BRC members’ data suggests that the wages growth trend in retail is likely to continue, provided productivity growth is maintained. In retail, productivity is increasing 2.2% a year compared to 0.8% for the UK as a whole, but while wages are rising rapidly, the number of retail jobs – currently some 3.2 million – is falling, signalling structural change in the industry to create “fewer but better jobs.”

Helen Dickinson OBE, chief executive of the BRC (pictured), comments: “This new data highlights a stark contrast between rapid pay growth in retail with the rest of the economy. The retail industry is over-performing the economy as a whole and is continuing to make progress on a journey to the higher paid and better jobs of the future.

“The National Living Wage has had a part to play in driving this exceptional growth in wages. However, far from being the whole story, strong productivity growth, fuelled by technological change has also contributed to year on year pay increases above the UK average, at all levels of the retail industry. And, despite fears to the contrary, there’s little evidence that these wage increases are coming at the expense of other wage-related benefits. “Maintaining productivity gains will be crucial to sustaining wage growth as employers contend with further changes to statutory employment costs.”

Heather Barson, director of retail and hospitality at Fujitsu UK, told Get Connected: “Since the industrial revolution we’ve seen how emerging technologies have the potential to reshape the way we work. Today, retailers are one of many industries at the forefront of this revolution, privy to the role that technology plays in differentiating their experiences from the competition.

“Retailers should be using these technologies to remove repetitive tasks, and make way for employees to spend more time focusing on the customer. Doing this will allow them to better provide a more personalised service for customers, complementing the experience they find online. Whilst technology can be used to improve a retailer’s service and better equip staff, the human touch will always be necessary to make that emotional connection. And when considering the ever-increasing rise in multi-faceted jobs, prioritising technology to take on the time-consuming and mundane tasks will help create a new set of jobs with a new skill set that balances the retail roles that are now using technology. 

“In a world where retailers are increasingly needing to think of innovative ways to provide that ‘heightened experience’ that consumers now demand, retailers should be bringing technology and employees together, not tearing them apart.  After all, whilst technology is transforming the workplace, humans are the ones who will accelerate its impact.”

 Olga Kotsur, CEO and founder at Mercaux, added: “The latest figures from the BRC depict a struggling high-street, with retail employment reaching its lowest ever. In the wake of this, we in the industry need to act – take responsibility and help the high street thrive. With the retail landscape changing at a dramatic rate in the digital evolution we are living through, retailers need to find ways to bring their stores into the digitalised 21st century.

“We mustn’t forget that the physical store is still a vital part of the retail landscape, making up to around 90% of UK sales. The store is the ‘face’ of a brand, and enables a level of direct interaction with customers that online simply will never be able to provide. And this is where sales associates are key, and need to be empowered to be the connection point between retailer and shopper. If given the right tools, they can be a conduit to improved customer experience in-store and improved sales.

“Retailers can change this, if only they arm their sales associates differently. Sales associates want to be helpful to customers – if asked a question regarding a product, they don’t want to be unsure of the answer and unable to find out. We need to put that information in their hands to ensure that they always have the answers and not only that, but they add further value to the experience. Their role should make customers want to come into store, as they know they are going to receive a level of experience and insight that they wouldn’t have online. The digital revolution is not about replacing staff, it’s about freeing them up to focus on the things that really matter. There is a level of human-to-human interaction which can never be replicated by machines, but we need to use tech to allow retail staff to actually have those interactions and provide a great experience to shoppers. With the right technology, every sales associate can be a personal shopper, engaging with customers, impressing them and driving the sale, keeping the high street both relevant, and an essential part of the retail landscape.” 

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