The potential scale of an impending contraction in the UK retail sector has been laid bare for the first time by the British Retail Consortium after it bluntly predicted the loss of up to 900,000 jobs and 74,000 stores.
The pessimistic forecast has been penned in the wake of a series of convergent factors all conspiring to hit retailers bottom line such as the National Living Wage and apprenticeship levy, flagship policies announced by chancellor George Osborne last year.
What’s more many of these losses are expected to be felt in economically disadvantaged areas in Wales and the north of England where close to a third of closures could take place.
Some 300,000 people are currently employed across 270,000 shops in the UK retail sector but this number is expected to fall substantially as more and more shoppers head online and the impact of higher costs is felt.
Sir Charlie Mayfield, chairman of the British Retail Consortium (BRC), warned: "People are not realising just how significantly the workplace is changing and I think that is dangerous," he said.
"It means that people assume that somehow things are going to carry on as they are, when that's unlikely. Some of the places that will be affected will be some of the most economically fragile."
For those lucky enough to retain a job following these changes the future looks brighter however, with Mayfield predicting higher productivity and pay in the sector going forward.