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Parliamentary debates and questions

S5W-05138: Annie Wells (Glasgow)

Scottish Conservative and Unionist Party

Date lodged: 28 November 2016

To ask the Scottish Government what action it is taking to offset the loss of retail jobs, in light of recent figures from the Scottish Retail Consortium, which show that 4,630 retail workers have lost their jobs since 2014.

Answered by: Paul Wheelhouse 14 December 2016

The retail sector remains a very significant part of Scotland’s economy employing over 240,000 people in 2015, 9.6% of total employment in Scotland. The reduction in retail workforce since 2014 equates to less than 2% of total sector employment.

We recognise that the retail sector in Scotland is transforming in response to, among other things, changes to shopping habits and through new technology. The proportion of retail businesses in the UK (with 10 or more employees) making e-commerce sales has increased from 25.8% in 2009 to 39.8% in 2015 and this trend is likely to continue.

The latest Office for National Statistics Retail Sales Inquiry statistics show that the value of on-line sales in Great Britain increased by 26.8% between October 2015 and October 2016, and that online sales took a 15.2% market share in October 2016, compared with 12.7% in October 2015.

This shift to on-line shopping, coupled with UK Government austerity measures, which served to curtail consumer confidence, has had an impact on the sector.

Ministers and officials regularly engage with the Scottish Retail Consortium and other key stakeholders in the retail sector to discuss policy priorities and to better understand the challenges and opportunities that transformational change in the sector will present.

We are using all available levers to create the economic conditions to enable Scotland’s economy to thrive, working closely with delivery partners, including local authorities, Scottish Enterprise, Highlands and Islands Enterprise, and Skills Development Scotland, to ensure that businesses of all sizes and sectors can access the support they require. This year Ministers and partners across Scotland supported the Small Business Saturday campaign to celebrate the success of businesses and to encourage people to ‘shop local’.

We continue to support the retail sector through the small business bonus scheme and other business rate reliefs. It is estimated that the Small Business Bonus Scheme helped just over 31,000 shops in 2015, more than half the shops in Scotland.

We are promoting investment and economic growth in town centres through the Town Centre Action Plan, designed to support their revitalisation and to assist local action towards achieving this. The Town Centre First Principle that underpins the action plan is about adopting an approach to decisions that consider the vibrancy of town centres as a starting point. The principle is about open, measured and transparent decision making that takes account of medium to longer term impacts on town centres.

In the 12 months to March 2016, 2,031 people started a retail modern apprenticeship in Scotland, all of whom are in employed posts while undertaking their apprenticeship.

In addition, more than 50,000 training places, across all sectors, have been delivered through the Employability Fund since its launch in 2013 supporting people to find employment: a further 11,650 opportunities are on track to be delivered in 2016-17.