Retail is an exciting, dynamic and diverse industry. It is a driving force in our economy, generating £97bn of GVA in 2020, paying billions in business taxes, and collecting £29bn in VAT receipts in 2019. It is the UK's largest private sector employer, with three million colleagues across the UK, 9% of all UK jobs. Retailers touch the lives of millions of people every day, supporting the vibrant communities where they operate.
The industry is going through a period of profound change and Covid has accelerated those changes. Technology is changing how people shop, costs are increasing, and consumer demand is softening, all of which are creating a perfect storm that is driving structural change across the industry.
The industry is transforming and getting fit for the future. £3.6bn has been invested in new technology in 2019, up from £3.3bn in 2017, responding to changing customer needs. Job numbers are falling overall, with automation and AI replacing some tasks, however there will be new, higher-skilled roles in retail. 100,000 new types of jobs in retail have been created in recent years, and average pay increased by 3.9% in 2020 compared to a rise of 3.3% in the UK as a whole. Productivity growth outpaced the UK's economy growth (0.4%) and the price of goods in the past five years fell 4.0% while consumer prices overall were up 8.7%.
Store numbers fell by 6,700 between 2015-20 but retailers are investing in new store formats, creating new experiences for their customers. Online sales made up 48% of all non-food retail sales in 2020, up from 32% in 2019. These changes have significant implications for the industry, our economy and society. The Retail Sector Council will ask what change means for the consumer and society, and how the sector should respond.