The latest BRC-Bond Dickinson Retail Employment Monitor (REM), covering the third quarter of 2014 (July to September) has found that the equivalent number of full-time jobs fell by 1.3% compared with the same period last year.

At the same time, the number of outlets rose by 2.9%. Non-food retailers contributed marginally to the overall increase, for the first time for at least two years.

The average number of full-time equivalent staff per store fell to a record low, indicating a drive towards smaller-format stores – particularly in food.

Concerning the next quarter, the monitor indicates that 42% of retailers in its sample intend to increase staffing levels in the next three months, compared with 72% this time last year. However, the majority of retailers intend to keep staffing levels unchanged in the next three months. The proportion intending to reduce the number of staff reduced to 4% from 8% this time last year.

BRC director general, Helen Dickinson, says: “This is the fifth month in a row where we have seen a decline in the number of hours worked in retail. This quarter’s fall of -1.3% in full-time equivalent jobs is, once again, driven by food retailers reacting to the significant structural changes that are on-going across the industry.

“However, it is also worth remembering that as we approach the vital Christmas period, retailers will likely add a large number of temporary staff to their workforce to help them meet increased seasonal demand. Previously we have seen that a large percentage of these jobs turn into permanent positions.”

Christina Tolvas-Vincent, head of retail employment at business law firm Bond Dickinson, adds: “Retailers have always needed to be nimble in order to cope with economic developments, this year they have also needed to adapt to frequent changes to employment laws.

"As the retail industry employs more than three million people in the UK it must keep a finger on the pulse of the law as well as the economy. A lot of the retailers we work with are not just reacting to legislation but actively trying to stay ahead of it by looking after their staff better than their competitors. The attraction and retention of employees can be seen as part of the same equation as attraction and retention of customers."