Edinburgh and Lothians saw retail workforce drop by 165 before pandemic

Edinburgh lost 125 jobs from physical shops between 2015 and 2019, the report has found. Picture: SNS Group.Edinburgh lost 125 jobs from physical shops between 2015 and 2019, the report has found. Picture: SNS Group.
Edinburgh lost 125 jobs from physical shops between 2015 and 2019, the report has found. Picture: SNS Group.
Edinburgh and the Lothians lost 165 retail jobs from physical rather than online shops between 2015 and 2019, with a major drop in the number of people working in department stores.

The city of Edinburgh lost 125 retail jobs in the period to end with a workforce of 26,575, while East and West Lothian and Midlothian saw drops of 20, ten and also ten respectively, according to newly published figures.

Edinburgh lost a third of department store workers alone, and Midlothian shed all such staff. The period covered included the closure of Frasers in the West End, with the site now being turned into a Johnnie Walker visitor attraction. Jenners has also been earmarked for closure.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

In the North-east of Scotland, the local authority areas of Aberdeen City, Aberdeenshire and Angus respectively lost 1,965, 1,220 and 985 jobs over the period –amounting to 4,170.

Fife lost 1,135 jobs in the period from a 14,000-strong workforce, Dumfries and Galloway also lost more than 1,000, while Orkney was the least-affected area in Scotland, with a net gain of ten jobs.

Read More
Plans submitted to transform Edinburgh's Debenhams Princes Street store into 'hu...

Analysis by the JPIMedia Data Unit, harnessing data from the Office for National Statistics, shows the problem of job losses pre-dates the coronavirus pandemic, with industry bodies warning thousands more could vanish next year if action is not taken now.

The Union of Shop, Distributive and Allied Workers (Usdaw) said it “cannot overstate” the scale of the crisis the pandemic has brought about for retailers.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

General secretary Paddy Lillis said high-street shops already squeezed by the growth of online shopping combined with the direct impact of the pandemic has had a “catastrophic” effect, “pushing many retailers to breaking point”.

Almost 11,000 retail jobs disappeared from communities in Scotland in the period – with 222,300 employee jobs in physical shops in Scotland in 2019 – a decrease of 10,850, or 4.7 per cent, compared to 2015. Scotland has been hit harder than England, where jobs were down by only 2.3 per cent, while the workforce in Wales has shrunk by 8.8 per cent.

Roz Foyer, general secretary of the Scottish Trades Union Congress, said immediate action was needed to provide additional business support and create good quality jobs.

She said: “We need a new High Street Task Force in Scotland aligned with community wealth building measures and support for public transport to increase local spend and encourage more people to visit local retailers.”

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

The Scottish government said it was doing everything it could to support businesses during the pandemic.

A spokesperson added: “We are committed to listening to the views of businesses about the support they need. In addition to the current support measures, we will commence work on a new retail strategy for Scotland in January.”

High-street sellers’ woes come amid further Brexit concerns, with retailers recently warning that shoppers will pay the price if the UK government does not secure a zero-tariff agreement with the EU.

Recent data from the Scottish Retail Consortium (SRC) and KPMG revealed an 8.5 per cent year-on-year-drop in total sales in Scotland, including online.

A message from the Editor:

Thank you for reading this article. We're more reliant on your support than ever as the shift in consumer habits brought about by coronavirus impacts our advertisers.

If you haven't already, please consider supporting our trusted, fact-checked journalism by taking out a digital subscription.

Comment Guidelines

National World encourages reader discussion on our stories. User feedback, insights and back-and-forth exchanges add a rich layer of context to reporting. Please review our Community Guidelines before commenting.