Ten thousand retail jobs at risk as weak demand and stiff online competition hit sector
The collapsed DVD-rental chain Blockbuster will close 129 of its 528 stores in the coming weeks, bringing the total number of redundancies at the chain to more than 900.
These closures come on top of the 31 stores that had been told they were due to close before Blockbuster was forced to call in administrators Deloitte last week. In total, Blockbuster employed 4,190 people, and the jobs of the remaining staff hang in the balance. The administrators said an “employee assistance programme” was in place to help staff find other jobs.
Last Wednesday, Blockbuster became the third major retail casualty in a week as high streets face weak demand and stiff online competition. On Friday, the Office for National Statistics confirmed fears that hard-pressed consumers kept a tight rein on spending before Christmas, posting a 0.3% decline in retail sales (excluding fuel) for December. It noted that online shopping made up a rising share of retail sales, with more than 10% of the total accounted for by consumers using the internet, up 1.2% from 2011.
Following the collapse of HMV and Jessops, the number of retail jobs at risk has reached 10,000, fuelling concern that the resilience of the jobs market could be ending. Research group Capital Economics expects jobs data on Wednesday to show the number of people claiming unemployment benefit rose by 5,000 in December, compared with a drop of 3,000 in November.
“Recently, the improvement in the labour market has appeared to be running out of steam. We expect this to become even clearer in December’s data,” they said.