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Labour supply and skills demands in fashion retailing

Nickson, Dennis and Hurrell, Scott A. and Warhurst, Chris and Commander, Johanna (2011) Labour supply and skills demands in fashion retailing. In: Retail Work. Critical Perspectives on Work and Employment . Palgrave, Basingstoke, pp. 68-87. ISBN 9780230283572

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If, as Adam Smith once famously suggested, Britain was a nation of shopkeepers then it is now a nation of shopworkers. Retail is now a significant part of the UK economy, accounting for £256 billion in sales and one-third of all consumer spending (Skillsmart, 2007). It is the largest private sector employer in the UK, employing 3m workers, or 1 in 10 of the working population. For future job creation in the UK economy retail is also similarly prominent and the sector is expected to create a further 250,000 jobs to 2014 (Skillsmart, 2007). The centrality of retail to economic success and job creation is apparent in other advanced economies. For example, within the US, retail sales is the occupation with the largest projected job growth in the period 2004-2014 (Gatta et al., 2009) and in Australia retail accounts for 1 in 6 workers (Buchanan et al., 2003). Within the UK these workers are employed in approximately 290,000 businesses, encompassing large and small organizations and also a number of sub-sectors. This variance suggests that retail should not be regarded as homogenous in its labour demands. Hart et al. (2007) note how skill requirements and the types of workers employed may differ across the sector. This chapter further opens up this point, providing an analysis of the labour supply and skills demands for the sub-sectors of clothing, footwear and leather goods, which are described by Skillsmart (2007: 48) as being 'significant categories in UK retailing'.