Retailers start festive recruitment bonanza in buoyant mood

The retail sector has launched its customary recruitment drive for part-time workers as the festive season approaches.

Marks & Spencers will take on 19,000 part-timers to cope with the busiest time of the year, while Asda will recruit 2,000, Boots will bring in 3,000 workers and supermarket giant Tesco will hire an extra 15,000 staff – 3,000 more than it took on last Christmas.

But the annual recruitment campaign comes at a time when consumer confidence is low. A recent report by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) shows that retail sales are static – rising at their slowest rate in almost 10 years.

Some retailers acknowledge the spending slump, but remain optimistic.

“It’s the busiest time for us,” said a spokesman for Boots. “And even in a slowdown, people will celebrate Christmas.”

However, experts have warned that things may not pick up. David Brown, chief European economist at investment and security trading firm Bear Stearns, said: “The message is still very bleak for the UK high street.” He said that if anecdotal estimates about a very poor Christmas season proved correct, the Bank of England would have to consider a cut in the interest rate.

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