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South East

The retail sector in the South East employs 389,995 people, which accounts for 16% of the total retail workforce in England. There was a 10.5% decline in retail employment between 2001 and 2006. This decline is the largest of all nine English regions and is nearly three times the national average. 85% of retailers in the South East employ 10 people or less. Between 2001-2006, the South East experienced a 0.7% growth in the number of retail enterprises. Between 2001-2006, there was a 4.7% increase in the number of businesses that employ 5 people or less.

Workforce key statistics

  • 44% of the workforce is employed full-time
  • 61% is female
  • Only 40% of Managers and Senior Officials have NVQ level 3 or higher qualification and 21% of this occupational group have a below NVQ level 2 qualification.
  • Staff with a below NVQ level 2 qualification account for 32% of sales and customer service staff and 47% of elementary occupations. 22% of employees in elementary occupations do not have any qualification.

Vacancies statistics:

  • 16% of employers have at least one vacancy, the third highest amongst the English regions.
  • 4% of employers in the region report hard-to-fill vacancies and 3% report vacancies resulting from skill-shortages.
  • Of the retail businesses in the South East reporting hard-to-fill vacancies, 68% are reported for sales and customer service roles, 9% for managerial roles and 6% for elementary roles.
  • The South East shows lower than average incidences of hard-to-fill vacancies in most of the occupational groups. However, the percentage of employers reporting hard-to-fill vacancies in sales and customer service staff is 8% above the English average.
  • Of the companies in the South East reporting skill-shortage vacancies, 65% stated they had vacancies in sales and customer service roles, 12% in managerial roles and 6% in elementary roles.
  • Retail employers in the South East find customer handling (38%), team working (33%) and numeracy (32%) the most difficult skills to find in applicants.

Source: South East Regional Background Brief 2008