Older workers pivotal to retail workforce

Posted by Isobel Drake on 12th September 2008

Older employees are likely to be more loyal and stay in the retail sector long term, new research by UK-based Skillsmart Retail has suggested.

A survey by the Sector Skills Council into the attitude of retail workers found that, although one third of the retail workforce is under 25, employees in their 30s, 40s and 50s saw their jobs as much more permanent than other workers.

The results have sparked Skillsmart Retail to take on a larger piece of research investigating the importance of older workers in an ageing population and shrinking labour pool.

The research, entitled ‘Adult Retail Employment Survey’ was the first of its kind, according to the company. It was carried out in August 2008 by TNS Research, with 243 retail workers across a range of age-groups asked about their attitudes to work.

It discovered that 63 per cent of 35-64 year-olds saw themselves continuing in retail for the foreseeable future – nearly twice the average of that of all ages (37 per cent). It also found that just 17 per cent of 35-64 year-olds saw retail as a temporary phase, compared to the average figure of 41 per cent.

Karen Charlesworth, Head of Research at Skillsmart Retail, believes that, at a time when skills shortages are common in the retail sector, older workers may have been neglected. “Our previous research has shown that the retail sector has big skills challenges,” she said. “A lot of work has gone into helping young people get the skills they need to work in the sector, but older people may also need to be considered.”

“Although this was an exploratory piece of research, it does suggest that older workers are more committed to their employment and more likely to stay with their employers,” Ms Charlesworth added. “While more research needs to be carried out, this age group may be a key way of increasing the skills base in the industry and we are now looking into expanding our research in order to investigate this further.”