When we think of retail jobs, the supporting infrastructure is often overlooked. We think firstly of the staff most visible to us as retail customers: cashiers, shelf-stackers, security and management. Then we might consider senior management, those who make ‘big decisions’ concerning a franchise. 

Retail jobs – supporting infrastructure

Those outside of the retail industry at least might not even consider the huge numbers of people employed in the supporting infrastructure.

Retail call centres employ thousands of people throughout the UK. These people manage customer emails, telephone calls and social media enquiries. There are many others employed in specialised managerial and strategic marketing roles. All are designed to maximise customer spending, largely through digital channels.

Tesco cuts 1,100 Cardiff call centre jobs

On June 21, Tesco announced it would be cutting 1,100 jobs from its Customer Engagement Centre in Cardiff, Wales, and moving 500 jobs to the centralised base in Dundee, Scotland.

The retail jobs of over 1,000 people would represent a massive impact for any community in any town, city or region in the UK. Andrew RT Davies, the leader of the Conservatives in the Welsh Assembly, said: “This could be the biggest single loss of jobs in Wales since 2009, and will be a huge blow for the employees and their families and the South Wales economy.”

Meanwhile Chief Executive of Tesco, Matt Davies commented: “The retail sector is facing unprecedented challenges and we must ensure we run our business in a sustainable and cost-effective way while meeting the changing needs of our customers.”

Wider impact of “unprecedented challenges” to retail sector

It is perhaps significant that the precise nature of these unprecedented challenges for the retail sector was not expanded upon. If there are profound challenges across the whole sector which warrant such heavy slashes to the retail workforce, how might similar seismic shockwaves impact other retailers, retail jobs and communities across Britain?

Is it genuinely a sign of market trauma to come, or is Tesco suffering in part due to its larger than average retail size and market dominance?

Many of these issues can and will be subjected to extended speculation and various forecasts. Retail is one of the most obvious places to look for evidence of economic change and rising prices, both in stores and in the supporting infrastructure of the largest companies.

As consumers, we are being warned to tighten our belts for a period of steadily rising prices and inflation. It’s frequently broadcast that earnings and pay are not rising with inflation.

Whether Tesco’s substantial cutting of over a thousand retail jobs is a harbinger of wider industry struggles remains to be seen. But our thoughts are with those affected by the news.

tesco slough by osde8info licensed under Creative commons 5