Only 21% of 14 to 19-year-olds would consider a career in retailing, according to ­Skillsmart Retail.

The government-funded body, which works with retailers to attract people into the sector, said retailers needed to take action now to prevent staff shortages in future. It called on UK retailers to promote and raise the profile of the career opportunities that existed at all levels within retailing.

Karen Charlesworth, head of research at Skillsmart ­Retail, said: "Unless retailers take action now to promote retail as a career of choice, difficulties with recruitment and retention will simply be compounded.

"With retailing already present in every area in the UK, not to mention the additional jobs that will be created by the UK's hosting of the Olympics, retail clearly is a career that can offer significant opportunities."