Business people The City

A demographic time bomb is poised to explode in the retail sector resulting in huge workforce losses as baby boomers reach retirement, new research warns.

Specialist recruiter Randstad Business Support said retailers were in danger of losing some of their most knowledgeable staff, exacerbating what was “an already biting skills shortage”.

Its research showed societal pressure for people to leave the workforce at state pension age, despite the part that flexible working, phased retirement and retraining schemes played in retaining senior staff longer.

Randstad said the retail industry, especially, was poised to suffer. In its poll of 2,000 retail industry employees, 68% of respondents reported feeling pressure to leave work at state pension age, it said.

And 25% of retail employees reported plans to retire early. The biggest force behind these plans was feeling they “won’t be wanted” in the workforce when they are older, with 20% of respondents stating this as their key reason, Randstad said.

One in four retail workers is aged 50 and older, figures from the Department for Work & Pensions show. Furthermore, the retail sector accounts for 15.8%, or 4.4 million of the UK’s total employment, according to a report by the House of Commons Library.

“The retail sector accounts for a significant portion of employment across the UK and given the high volume of industry workers nearing state pension age, there is an extremely valid concern for a skills shortage should these employees retire en masse,” said Ruth Jacobs, MD of Randstad Business Support.

These senior employees had expertise in areas their younger colleagues did not, and many had successfully weathered the storms the retail sector faced through recession, she said.

“So seeing them exit the workforce collectively could mean retailers lose their most knowledgeable staff, exacerbating an already biting skills shortage.”