Almost 30,000 job losses were recorded across restaurants and casual dining firms in 2020, with the coronavirus crisis driving a 163% jump in job cuts as restrictions designed to fight the spread of the virus hit the sector according to new figures compiled by The Centre for Retail Research.

The research highlighted major closure proposals and redundancy plans at companies such as Pizza Express, SSP Group, Casual Dining Group, The Restaurant Group and Mitchells & Butlers during the year.

The figures show that 29,684 jobs were lost, far exceeding the 11,280 job losses reported across the sector in 2019. The report also shows that branch closures by hospitality firms hit 1,621 – a 75.8% jump on the 922 closures recorded in 2019.

Major brands including Topshop-owner Arcadia, Edinburgh Woollen Mill Group and Debenhams slashed hundreds of jobs after collapsing into administration during the year.

Further analysis revealed that last year was the worst for the High Street in more than 25 years as the coronavirus accelerated the move towards online shopping with nearly 180,000 retail jobs were lost in the UK, up by almost a quarter on the previous year.

The Centre for Retail Research has warned there will be more pain for the sector in 2021 as retailers face a cash flow crisis and rent payments. It has predicted up to 200,000 more retail jobs will be at risk in 2021.

The High Street was struggling before the pandemic struck, but almost a year of lockdowns and restrictions appears to have turbocharged that decline. Some estimate the shift towards online shopping has been accelerated by five to ten years.

Every week in 2020, an estimated 3,400 retail jobs were lost. Retailers have spent huge sums of money making their premises covid secure; stores have been re-designed with one way systems and plastic screens, returned items are quarantined for up to 72 hours and there are enhanced cleaning regimes.

Professor Joshua Bamfield, Director at the Centre for Retail Research, said “Whilst the longer-term effects of the greater use by shoppers of all kinds of online retailing is likely to be hugely damaging for physical stores.”


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