Retail news round-up: ’Unhappy’ staff; stores making headlines, shop jobs and automation

The retail industry has the unhappiest staff, according to an Expert Market/Vivatic survey. Some 13% of the 2,222 respondents said they had imagined killing their boss and 30% of those in the sector claimed to hate their job.

Eric N Smith

At the end of April, Eric Smith – who has designed jewellery for the Queen and the Princess Royal – will shut the Glasgow jewellers he has run with his wife Yvonne for 45 years when the couple retire. Mr Smith was twice named UK designer of the year at the UK Jewellery Awards. Meanwhile, high street bedding and furniture retailer Warren Evans has gone into administration, and Debenhams has announced plans to slash 320 jobs as part of a cost-cutting drive


The 2018 supermarket satisfaction survey by consumer watchdog Which? has seen Aldi take over from Waitrose as the shoppers’ favourite. Marks & Spencer was placed second, followed by Lidl, Waitrose – top for the past three years – Iceland, Tesco, Asda and Morrisons (equal seventh) and Sainsbury’s. topped the online supermarkets’ survey for the third consecutive year, sharing the top spot with Ocado.

Up to 30% of existing UK jobs could be affected by automation over the next 15 years, with the retail and manufacturing sectors among the worst hit, according to PwC.

Retailers saw improved performance in the January sales – but only just, according to BDO’s high street sales tracker. Total like-for-like sales grew at a glacial pace of 0.6%, as stores avoided a repeat of last year’s negative growth when sales fell -0.1% year-on-year in January. The British Retail Consortium and KPMG also said that January sales had risen by 0.6%, while Barclaycard’s monthly retail sales data showed that consumer spending was up 3.9% year-on-year, with the increase driven by spending on everyday essentials. However, Visa said that household spending fell by 1.2% in January compared with 12 months ago.

Footfall in January decreased by 1.6% year-on-year, a deeper drop than the rate seen for January 2017 of 1.3%, the BRC-Springboard footfall and vacancies monitor revealed. The national town centre vacancy rate was 8.9% in January, down from 9.3% in October 2017. This is largely due to reduced vacancy rates for Greater London, Northern Ireland and Scotland.

While the economy will grow ‘modestly’, consumer spending ‘has slowed noticeably’, according to the Nationwide Building Society whose chief executive, Joe Garner, said that almost three-quarters of customers surveyed expressed concern about rising costs.

In the first full year since the European Union referendum, exports from Britain rose by 11.3%. However, the latest Purchasing Managers’ Index survey for the UK manufacturing sector gave a reading of 55.3 for January, the lowest in seven months, but still ahead of the 50 points that separates growth from contraction.

RBS has revealed it may not shut 10 Scottish bank branches previously earmarked for closure. The bank also said that it would commit to keeping ATMs in rural areas where they are the last cash machine in town. The Federation of Small Businesses said that for those firms who use the other 52 branches slated for closure, the news would be of little comfort.

Alan Monahan