High street stores are hiring in earnest as non-essential shops prepare to reopen in England and Wales, with retail vacancies climbing to within 14% of their pre-pandemic levels, and outperforming the labour market as a whole2, according to new research by the world’s largest job site Indeed.
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 the announcement in February 2021 of routes out of lockdown for all parts of the UK, 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. But as the economy starts to unlock, recent days have seen job postings on Indeed record the biggest one-week gain since the recovery began in February.
While recruitment by supermarkets has held up well throughout the pandemic, Indeed’s analysis of hiring by non-food retailers reveals they are now enjoying a renaissance too. A ranking of the 10 non-food stores posting the most new jobs since February is dominated by DIY outlets, which have been allowed to remain open during lockdown and benefitted from a boom in demand for home improvements.
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 this month.
Top 10 non-food retailers posting the most new jobs since February1
|6||Pets At Home|
|7||Holland & Barrett|
|10||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, with jobseeker interest in the brand rocketing by 201% in just two weeks1.
‘John Lewis’ is the second fastest growing search term on the platform, with searches rising by 43%. Meanwhile, searches for jobs at Marks & Spencer have risen by 23%.
Online shopping has grown 78% during the pandemic, and now makes up 36% of all retail sales3. In a sign that retailers expect high levels of online shopping to be a permanent fixture, postings for loading, stocking and driving jobs – all essential for running an online retail operation – now exceed their pre-pandemic levels.
Job postings for food and hospitality still lag far behind retail vacancies, but this may reflect the fact pubs and restaurants are not scheduled to reopen fully until May, while there are still question marks over when international tourists will be able to visit the UK.
Jack Kennedy, UK Economist at global job site Indeed, comments: “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.”