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Employment is gloomy in the retail trade


Camaïeu, San Marina, La Grande Récré… While the announcements of liquidation of large brands follow one another, sellers in small businesses are wondering about their future facing Amazon and others. Released on May 16, a publication from the statistics department of the Ministry of Labor (Dares) confirms these fears.

Weighed down by inflation and online shopping, salaried employment in the retail trade (excluding apprentices) experienced an unprecedented drop in 2022 (–0.5% over one year), underlines the document. A slight decline, but which contrasts with the overall good health of employment (+1.2%) over the period, driven at the start of the year by the post-crisis economic rebound.

Soaring number of PSEs

Other warning signals confirm the sector’s structural difficulties. Thus, the surge in the number of job protection plans (PSE) due to liquidation: between October 2022 and March 2023, twenty-four PSE, covering 7,200 breaches of contract, were put in place by companies in the sector; or twenty times more breaks than a year earlier, when nine PSE registered in the retail trade had led to 360 breaches of contract, notes the study.

This represents 43% of the total for all sectors combined: 16,500 breaches of contract were considered under the PSE, excluding retail, implemented between October 2022 and March 2023. “Furthermore, over this period, 89% of breaches of contract envisaged at the start of PSE in the retail trade relate to companies in receivership or compulsory liquidation, compared to 32% outside the retail trade”the authors point out.

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Rising prices weigh on the purchasing power of customers: “The sector is facing high inflation, particularly in food products, and an almost continuous decline in the consumption of goods for eighteen months”, recalls the study. Beyond economic explanations, physical businesses are of course faced with the rise of e-commerce: “The online consumption habits adopted during the health crisis persist, including in food”affecting local businesses and their jobs.

And policy makers are not optimistic: “Beyond the PSE alone, the INSEE business tendency surveys show that retail trade companies remain mostly pessimistic about the evolution of their workforce”add the authors.

Fewer vendors, more cashiers

These difficulties are primarily reflected in sales positions. In the structuring of jobs making up retail trade, their share fell between the end of 2019 and the end of 2022 (–1.2 points). Conversely, that of cashiers and self-service employees, often multi-skilled positions and which include shopping tasks, is progressing (+0.8 point); as well as the share of skilled handling workers (+0.2 points).

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