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Retail Business

The Job Market

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  • The retail industry employs 2,476,556 people in England - that's 1 in 10 of the working population - and almost 3 million throughout the UK.
  • Retail is the UK's largest private sector employer.
  • Within retail there are an estimated 290,000 UK retail businesses selling a wide range of products, employing from one person to thousands of people who do lots of different types of jobs.
  • The current UK retail market is dominated by a comparatively small number of large retailers who have 500+ employees. These large retailers employ 65% of all people working in retail and have 69% of all the annual turnover of retail businesses.
  • The largest numbers of businesses - making up 83% of retailers - employ less than 10 people. These small retail outlets employ 29% of the retail workforce and take 19% of annual turnover of retail businesses.
  • Retail accounts for £265 billion in sales and one-third of all consumer spending.
  • With more households using the internet, online retail is increasing at a rapid rate.
  • A third of all those who work in the retail sector are below the age of 25 (the whole economy average is 25%).
  • More than half - 59% of retail employees are female.
  • Almost half - 49% - of those working in retail are part-time (the whole economy average is 25%).
  • The current recessionary climate is affecting most areas of retail business however; certain sections of retail businesses, online retailers, major supermarkets and value/discount stores are showing signs of growth.
  • Retail employers report that applicants often have the following skills shortages - customer handling skills, technical, practical or job-specific skills and oral communication skills.
  • Logistics is the UK's fifth biggest industry employing more than 2 million people across 65,000 organisations.
  • Logistics employers range from small companies to international logistics organisations and transport providers operating fleets of vehicles.
  • There is currently a shortage of skilled workers in some areas. Jobs can be found throughout the UK.
  • The distribution industry is one in which men predominate. Men account for around 7 out of every 10 jobs.
  • Around 75 percent of employment in distribution is full-time. Part-time employment and self-employment each currently account for around 1 in 8 jobs.

Retail buyers and merchandisers  

  • Around 12,000 people are employed specifically as retail buyers in the UK.
  • Virtually all retailers and manufacturers employ someone to take responsibility for buying. In smaller retail businesses, it may be combined with other sales or marketing duties, or another retail management role.
  • There are more applicants than vacancies.
  • Many retail buying jobs are based in head offices, the majority of which are in London and south-east England. However, opportunities do exist in other parts of the UK such as the West Midlands.

Contact centre (or call centre) operators

  • In the UK, there are 5,040 contact centres, employing more than 800,000 people - a figure which is likely to increase to over one million by 2012.
  • There are jobs with large and small businesses. Contact centres are often sited on business parks outside city and town centres.
  • Some companies base their contact centres abroad. There may be some opportunities to work overseas, setting up contact centres and training local staff.

Marketing and Sales

  • In England, around 750,000 people work in marketing, advertising, PR and sales.
  • Employers range from large companies and organisations to smaller businesses, and advertising and public relations agencies. Larger employers tend to be based around major UK cities, especially London, and the south east.
  • Competition for marketing positions is high. Most enter marketing after gaining related work experience.
  • Sales managers can be found in all job sectors not just the retail business. Other major areas of employment include finance, manufacturing, wholesale distribution and IT.
  • There is a demand for skilled sales representatives and there are opportunities throughout the UK and overseas.


  • There are over 86,000 distribution and transport managers in the UK.
  • The UK is a major trading nation and, as the global market is expanding, there are increasing opportunities for importers and exporters.
  • There are around 300,000 LGV drivers in the UK. The industry has been affected by the recession and there are currently fewer vacancies for qualified drivers.
  • There are 338,000 warehouse workers and around 68,000 warehouse managers.

Figures from Skill Smart Retail LMI report - November 2009.