MORE than 42,500 retail and restaurant jobs have been axed or put at risk since the beginning of lockdown as high streets struggle to survive.
M&S today became the latest retailer to confirm plans to cut 7,000 jobs over the next three months following the pandemic.
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It comes after The Sun revealed last night that the retail giant was planning to make cuts to its workforce.
Britain’s retailers are facing a double whammy of falling sales amid the pandemic and the ongoing shift to online shopping.
Despite non-essential retailers reopening across the UK, the number of visitors to high streets and other retail destinations is still a third lower than before the pandemic.
Debenhams, for example, has laid off 2,500 staff and has put itself up for sale.
It has hired advisers to look at a potential liquidation if it cannot find a buyer.
Meanwhile, Boots, WH Smith and John Lewis are among others shedding staff.
The hospitality industry has also been hit hard by Covid-19, although restaurants and pubs have received a boost by the Eat Out to Help Out scheme.
The government scheme gives diners 50 per cent off meals and non-alcoholic drinks, up to £10 a head, in restaurants, cafes and pubs on Mondays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays throughout August.
Overall, retailers and restaurants have announced plans to axe or have already cut more than 42,500 jobs on the high street.
The figure includes major retailers slashing more than 1,000 jobs in one go, as well as those that plan to shed “just” a few hundred jobs.
For example, The Sun last week revealed River Island plans to axe 350 jobs.
While fashion chain M&Co is set to cut 380 jobs, and Currys PC World plans to shed 800 jobs in a store management shake-up.
The job losses have led to calls for targeted support schemes for the retail sector amid fears the government’s action won’t be enough to save jobs.
The furlough scheme comes to an end in October, and while Chancellor Rishi Sunak has launched a £1,000 bonus to firms for every furloughed staff they re-employ, there are fears there will still be thousands more retail jobs axed.
Chancellor Rishi Sunak unveiled his plan for jobs in the mini-Budget last month, alongside a VAT cut from 20% to 5%.
But Labour has called for a tailored hospitality and high streets fightback fund to protect jobs and help struggling firms in the sector.
It believes an underspend in coronavirus business grant schemes could be used to help local areas in distress, including restaurants and retailers.
Lucy Powell, shadow minister for business and consumers, said the M&S job losses are “devastating for the workers involved yet they also tell a much bigger story about the threat to our high streets”.
She added: “The scale of job losses was not inevitable but the incompetence of this Government means we’re now seeing wave after wave of redundancies, and store closures.
“Labour has called for a hospitality and high streets fightback fund to support businesses in distress and to save jobs now. Ministers must change course.”
The Sun contacted the Treasury for comment.
Unemployment has so far risen by 730,000 workers since March after 114,000 Brits lost their jobs last month.
The Bank of England recently also predicted unemployment could hit 7.5 per cent due to the coronavirus crisis.
We explain how to apply for free grants of up to £10,000 if you’ve recently lost your job.