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Equal Opportunities


  • 57% of employees in UK retail are female.
  • In Scotland, a larger proportion of women work in the retail sector (62%), probably due to its large rural population and a combination of cultural and labour market dynamics.
  • In London, 46% of the workforce is female, probably due to the larger ethnic population. Most ethnic minority sole traders are male.
  • 72% of all part-time positions in the UK retail sector are filled by women, who are mainly in sales and customer services roles. Women tend to be attracted to these positions because they offer flexibility and allow them an opportunity for an improved work-life balance.
  • In the top 100 publicly listed companies, men outnumber women in management and senior official positions. Six retail enterprises have female executive directors, but no chief executives are female.

Source: Skillsmart Retail LMI Report April 2010 and Skillsmart Retail Analysis 2008-09


  • 22% of the English retail workforce is aged over 50 years.
  • 45% of sales and customer services employees are below 25 years.
  • 8% of managers and senior occupations are filled by people below 25 years.

The retail sector has typically relied on young people to meet employment demands.

32% of the UK retail workforce is between the ages of 16 to 24. However, demographic change i.e. the ageing of the UK population, together with the growth in numbers entering higher education means this pool is shrinking. Research has also found that young people have negative perceptions of the sector.

Some employers in the sector have actively started to recruit mature workers, such as B&Q. ASDA has introduced policies such as ‘grandparent leave’ for its employees.

Source: Skillsmart Retail Analysis 2008-09, England National Background Brief 2008 and Quantifying Perceptions of a Career in Retail 2009


  • 11% of employees in retail are from minority ethnic groups, a higher proportion than most sectors.
  • The majority of migrants who register as working in the retail sector remain in
  • London (22%). Over 15% of migrants work in retail in the East of England and 12% work in the West Midlands.

Source: Skillsmart Retail Analysis 2008-09


  • 14% of the UK retail workforce is disabled, with 180,665 people with DDA disabilities and work-limiting disabilities.

Source: England National Background Brief 2008