Checkout staff and customer

Supermarket staff are ‘overworked and underappreciated’ against the backdrop of the cost of living crisis

Nearly half of retail employees currently feel “overworked and underappreciated” due to pressures induced by labour shortages.

Forty-two per cent of employees said their negative feelings stemmed mainly from the staff shortages plaguing the retail industry, according to market research conducted by retail technology company Fourth.

The problem is set to worsen in the run-up to Christmas, with 53% of grocery business leaders feeling anxious about Covid infections further affecting their workforces.

British retailers and hospitality groups alike have warned of staffing shortages in the run-up to the “golden quarter”, and many have already kicked off their seasonal recruitment drive to support their existing workforce with temporary labour.

The John Lewis Partnership announced as early as August it was recruiting 10,000 temporary workers for the Christmas period across Waitrose and John Lewis stores, warehouses and supply chain.

“Forecasting must become a top priority for retail leaders looking to manage staffing levels in an uncertain and disrupted market,” said Fourth’s EMEA MD Sebastien Sepierre.

“Forecasting helps avoid costly instances of over and under-staffing by informing managers of when and where a store should increase or decrease staffing levels.”

Fourth’s research, comprised of insights from employees, employers and customers, showed less than half (48%) of shoppers felt there was the right amount of shop floor staff available.

Read more: Compared: Employee pay and perks at Britain’s supermarkets

A recent Grocer 33 mystery shopper visit described “a noticeable lack of staff on the shop floor” at their local Sainsbury’s, causing them to walk several aisles before finding a store colleague.

A similar lack of staff was visible at checkouts: “I was shocked on approach to the tills, there was one till open out of about 12, a queue of people for the till and the rest of the customers were using the self-service counters” which were “extremely busy with people and flashing poles”.

The Grocer’s annual service & availability report also found shop floor service scores across the mults were down 3% as the supply chain crisis and the effects of Brexit, including staff shortages, hit home.

Fourth said that, with the rising cost of living, high inflation, and pending recession on the horizon, retailers faced new challenges in the run-up to Christmas.

“It is vital that retail leaders respond to these concerns, as underappreciated employees lead to high staff turnover rates with huge consequences for a business.”