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Retail recruitment spree as shops prepare to open

Written by: Emma Lunn
High street stores have embarked on a hiring spree, ahead of the 12 April reopening, with Primark and Clarks among stores leading the way.

According to jobs website Indeed, retail vacancies are back within touching distance of pre-Covid levels as postings climb to 14% down on pre-pandemic numbers.

At their low point during the first nationwide lockdown last May, postings for retail roles collapsed to 65% below their pre-pandemic level.

But they have been re-energised by announcement of the roadmap for lockdown easing, and have since bounced back by 29 percentage points.

Across the jobs market as a whole, vacancies are still 16% below their pre-pandemic level despite the biggest weekly jump in vacancies (+9%) since the pandemic struck.

While recruitment by supermarkets has held up well throughout the pandemic, Indeed’s analysis of hiring by non-food retailers found that they are now enjoying a renaissance too.

Who’s hiring?

A ranking of the 10 non-food stores posting the most new jobs since February is dominated by DIY outlets – namely Home Bargains, Screwfix and Toolstation – which have been allowed to remain open during lockdown.

However, the bricks and mortar-only fashion brand Primark has ramped up its hiring efforts, breaking into the top five alongside the shoe retailer Clarks, which has more than 300 high street stores across the UK. Both are set to reopen fully as restrictions on non-essential retailers are eased next week.

Other non-food retailers in the top 10 hirers are Pets At Home, Holland & Barrett, Vodafone, Go Outdoors and McColl’s Retail Group.

The early signs are that Primark and other retailers will have no trouble finding staff. ‘Primark’ is the fastest-growing search term on Indeed.

Online shopping has grown 78% during the pandemic, and now makes up 36% of all retail sales. In a sign that retailers expect high levels of online shopping to be a permanent fixture, postings for loading, stocking and driving jobs now exceed their pre-pandemic levels.

Job postings for food and hospitality still lag far behind retail vacancies. However, this may reflect the fact pubs and restaurants are not scheduled to fully reopen until May, while it’s still uncertain when international tourists will be able to visit the UK.

Jack Kennedy, UK economist at Indeed, said: “The roadmaps out of lockdown gave many retailers all the incentive they needed to ramp up their hiring, and the prime minister’s confirmation that non-essential retail can reopen in England next week looks set to trigger another spike in job postings.

“The news that retail employers are at last hiring at close to their pre-Covid pace will be music to the ears of the thousands of jobseekers who have struggled for over a year to find work in hard hit sectors like retail and hospitality.

“We can expect to see shoppers flocking back to the high street in coming weeks as they experiment with browsing in a physical shop for the first time in months, providing a much-needed boost to the economy.

“The continued increase in driving roles, however, hints at how the UK’s multiple lockdowns have transformed retail for good. Online shopping has boomed during the pandemic, and retailers’ high demand for delivery drivers and loaders suggests many expect the trend to continue even after high street stores reopen.”

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