British Retail Consortium claims slowdown will hit training

The retail industry has provided a mixed response to claims by the British Retail Consortium (BRC) of potential cuts in training and recruitment in the retail sector, following a slowdown in consumer spending.

Last week, Stephen Robertson, director-general of the BRC, said retailers were under increasing pressure to hold fire on recruitment plans and training initiatives.

Nathan Clements, director of organisation development at DIY giant B&Q said both consumers and all 38,000 employees at B&Q would be aware of the reduced levels in customer confidence. “This means they are less likely to move around, and equally employers are less likely to recruit. This trend is certainly reflected in the retail sector,” he said.

“With the exception of legislative training for legal compliance reasons, a lot of companies see training and development as nice to have, rather than essential.”

Clements said HR has a key role to play in tough trading times. “HR needs to help the business look at its performance and make efficiency improvements to help maximise profits – training is often a good way to do this,” he said.

Karen Charlesworth, head of research at retail sector skills council, Skillsmart Retail, urged retailers to continue to invest in training to ensure they remain competitive in future years.

“Our Sector Skills Agreement, published last year, showed that the sector needs a new injection of skilled staff if it is to remain competitive and avoid a skills shortfall,” Charlesworth said.

Victoria Winkler, learning, training and development adviser at the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD), said new research conducted by the CIPD suggests that a quarter of respondents expected to increase spend on learning and development in the next twelve months, while half expect their budgets to remain the same.

“During difficult times, companies will strive to hold a competitive advantage and may use training and development initiatives to attract and retain talented employees.

“Companies may well find the need to adapt under a tough climate, and will therefore need to take on new projects and developments. Training will therefore be essential during these times,” Winkler said.

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