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One in five retail workers plan to quit the retail industry, study says

Camilla Rydzek
26 May 2022

A new report by retail charity the Retail Trust reveals that a fifth of retail workers want to leave, with 84% citing deteriorating mental health amidst finance concerns, customer abuse and post-pandemic fatigue.

The Trust surveyed more than 1,500 retail staff for its Health of Retail report, with more than eight out of 10 (83%) saying they have experienced a decline in their mental health in the last year, with retail workers aged between aged 16 and 29, those working in distribution and warehouses, and employees of larger retailers found to be struggling the most.

The cost of living crisis was found to be causing the biggest worry overall, with the Retail Trust saying that it had received a 28% increase in applications for financial aid from retail workers this year, compared to the last four months of 2021.

“I wouldn’t be surprised if our biggest challenge this year is financial wellbeing and how we can better support teams as the cost of living increases. We’re mindful of decent pay increases but also that they’ll be absorbed by National Insurance increases and the cost of living,” a Chief People Officer at a fashion and lifestyle chain told the Trust.

The charity also worked with employee engagement platform WorkL to assess the wellbeing of a further 4,500 retail workers, which found that retail is one of the unhappiest industries to work in compared to other sectors. However, it also found that prioritising the wellbeing of employees and retail managers specifically would have a "big" impact on a retailer’s commercial performance.

Chris Brook-Carter, Chief Executive of the Retail Trust, said: “People working in retail have moved from one period of turmoil to another. They are exhausted after two years of a global pandemic and now facing a world dominated by a brutal war while coming to terms with a cost of living crisis, with inflation at a 40-year-high, that threatens to put our standards of living back decades.

Amelia Lietke, chief people officer at Ann Summers, added: “Our teams can be very diverse and we see the extremes, from suicidal thoughts to ‘I’m feeling really low today and can’t get to work’. We need to help managers with how they deal with those conversations so they are not expected to take on incredibly complex issues but can get the right support and signpost to organisations like the Retail Trust.

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