108,000 retail jobs lost to automation and e-commerce since 2011 - report

Store closures hit record levels in the first half of this year as restructurings and the move to online shopping hit the high street

MORE than 100,000 high street retail jobs have been lost to automation and e-commerce since 2011, according to a report.

Women and regional workers were most affected as retailers cut traditionally female customer service positions in favour of extra warehouse roles which had mostly gone to men, the Royal Society for the Encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce (RSA) said.

Women made up around 70 per cent of the job losses - or 75,000 of the 108,000 total.

But the report said retail's future was "not all gloomy" and the high street could be saved if retailers moved towards the responsible adoption of new technologies, retraining its workforce with new skills and moving towards "experiential" shopping such as in-store "influencers".

Fabian Wallace-Stephens, researcher at the RSA's Future Work Centre, said: "Our research shows that the economic pain that comes with the decline of the high street is not being felt evenly.

"Women are being hit particularly hard, with jobs growth being contained to roles usually filled by men such as delivery drivers.

"That said, we are optimistic that the high street's decline can be reversed. If retailers collaborate more with each other, offer exciting in-store experiences and make customer service roles higher skilled - with staff becoming more like in-store 'influencers' - then we still see a vibrant future for the high street."

It came as a separate report from accountancy giant PwC and the Local Data Company found that 1,234 chain stores in the UK closed in the first half of 2019 - the highest net closure rate since they begun the study in 2010.

A total of 2,868 stores closed over the period, with 1,634 stores opening.

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