We have a great story to tell about working in retail and countless examples of people who have forged very successful careers by making the most of opportunities in the retail industry.
However, retail is often unfairly characterised as a low pay industry and targeted by campaign groups who believe that simply increasing the lowest levels of pay is a panacea to poverty.
Our industry is the largest private sector employer in the UK – we employ almost three million people, one million of whom are under 24 and one in six has no qualifications. It’s not surprising that there are more lower paid jobs in retail than in banking.
We already have a strong track record of promoting good people quickly, regardless of their qualifications and we are working hard on expanding progression opportunities to more and more of our workforce. The living wage concept in itself is a blunt campaigning tool and doesn’t take into account the fact that people value the flexibility and diversity of retail jobs or the progression opportunities the industry offers.
However, we do have to recognise there are people who are stuck on low pay. The reasons for this are complex. Unpicking these issues and developing sustainable solutions is the route to addressing low pay across our industry and across the wider economy.
The BRC is working with retail HR Directors to look at the barriers to progression in our industry. The results of which will help us create clear routes out of low pay – not just for retail employees but for those who are stuck on low pay across the economy.
Our belief is that this approach will lead to and keep many more people out of low pay than any dogmatic tinkering with hourly pay rates ever could.