Online retail to create 750,000 new jobs in next four years?

A survey suggests online retailers are faring much better than their high street equivalents - though they haven't escaped the squeeze entirely.

by Emma Haslett
Last Updated: 21 Oct 2011
Life is tough for high street retailers at the moment; so much so that many are having to cut costs and headcount to keep their heads above water. But it's a very different story for online retailers, judging by a new survey: 63% have apparently increased the number of staff working for them over the past year. A good argument for retailers to worry more about clicks and less about bricks?

The survey, by e-commerce industry body IMRG and research company eDigitalResearch, found that the online retail industry now employs (or supports the employment of) a cool 730,000 people. And that’s likely to increase over the next year: apparently, 60% of online retailers want to bring in new recruits over the next year or so. In fact, IMRG reckons the sector could be supporting some 1.5m jobs by 2015.

There is a caveat, though. Surveys like this tend to present online as the saviour of the retail industry, but this one paints a more realistic picture. 63% is clearly a lot, but it's well below the 80% who said they wanted to recruit new people this time last year. Which suggests that even online retailers have felt the pressure from the slowdown in consumer spending in recent months.

On the other hand, online retail is still a very fruitful area: according to the research, 43% of the firms questioned said at least half of their revenue comes from the internet, while 41% said between 91-100% of their revenue is generated online. And apparently, more than 1bn parcels are expected to be distributed to ecommerce customers during 2011. So it's clearly a good place for retailers to be investing.

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