The Welsh Government has launched a new vision with the aim of regenerating the retail sector in Wales.
The shared strategic vision for the retail sector sets out how the Welsh Government, industry and trade unions will work together to secure a sustainable future for Wales’ largest private sector employer.
The retail sector, which is a major contributor to the Welsh economy, employs over 114,000 people and contributes 6% of Wales’ GVA.
As part of the new vision, the Welsh Government wants to ensure the sector offers better pay and conditions, job security, opportunities for career progression and a skilled workforce.
It outlines the key challenges facing the industry, including workforce recruitment and retention challenges, rising operating costs and changing consumer habits, and how they can be overcome.
Improve retail career opportunities, with a commitment to progressively improve wages, working conditions beyond legal minimums, ideally through collective bargaining.
Greater job security, ensuring that workers have guaranteed hours and adequate notice of changes in working hours.
Encourage equality, diversity and inclusion in the workforce – with proactive measures taken to tackle under-representation, occupational segregation and pay gaps.
Ensure fair working conditions and a safe working environment, with retail workers having an effective voice in decisions that affect them and their working conditions.
To ensure that town centers and high streets in Wales thrive, through interventions such as investment, including ‘Transforming Towns’ regeneration investment, support for non-domestic tariffs and, through the Welsh Government’s Town Center First approach, making these environments the preferred location for workplaces and services.
Address skills shortages. Building on the Welsh Government’s plan for employability and skills, the plan sets out actions to both improve the skills of existing workers and attract new entrants to the sector.
Helping retailers to decarbonise and digitalise, for example by reducing their dependence on fossil fuels, minimizing the carbon footprint of their supply chains and investing in and maximizing the potential use of digital technology.
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The strategic vision will be accompanied by an action plan in the coming months.
Economy Minister Vaughan Gething said: “Retail in Wales is hugely important to our economy, our communities and our well-being as a nation. Retail is all around us in every part of Wales – in every village, town and city. We greatly appreciate the jobs, goods, community services and benefits it provides.
“Our appreciation of the retail sector, as a cornerstone of the fundamental economy, has only grown during the Covid pandemic – but we know that a thriving and resilient retail sector is not does not happen by accident, which is why it is important that we nurture the environment in which it can thrive and adapt, particularly in response to the shift to a more circular economy.
“The common vision we are launching today commits the Welsh Government and the retail sector to continued dialogue and working closely together to meet the challenges ahead. We know there are no quick fixes, easy fixes or infinite budgets.”
He added: “What we do have, however, is a willingness to work in social partnership, with the Welsh Government, employers, business representative bodies and trade unions working together to understand where we are now, where we want to go, and how we can get there.
“The Welsh Government is committed to improving the quality of life and conditions that will make Wales an attractive place for individuals and businesses to plan for their future. I firmly believe that the retail sector has a bright future and will continue to be a key player in the Welsh economy.
Social Partnership Deputy Minister Hannah Blythyn said: “The retail sector is highly dependent on its workforce. A better deal for retail workers – better pay, better terms and conditions, better training and better career prospects will help the retail sector overcome recruitment and workforce retention challenges work, especially at a time of high employment. This will help project retail as a long-term career of choice and equip the workforce to deliver even better levels of customer service.
“We need to ensure retail workers have a real voice, primarily through their unions, to help shape their working conditions and the future of work in the sector. Embedding the spirit of social partnership – where business and trade unions work together – must be the cornerstone of tomorrow’s retail sector. »
Sara Jones, Head of the Wales Retail Consortium, said: “The Retail Vision provides welcome recognition of the retail sector and our workforce by the Welsh Government. The covid pandemic has shed light on the important role our retailers play, as engines of the economy and as community champions in the heart of our cities. The industry continues to face structural challenges that have only accelerated in the past two years, but we know there are opportunities to thrive and create sustainable high streets and ensure that the commerce of Retail remains a career of choice for many.
“The sector has a strong tradition of innovating and being at the forefront of new ideas, for the benefit of Welsh customers, and we look forward to building on these foundations in a truly collaborative approach with policy makers and leaders at all levels”.
She added: “Whether through the industry’s Climate Action Roadmap, the Diversity and Inclusion Charter or our significant charitable donations, retailers are always looking for ways to promote equality and opportunity for our workforce, suppliers and communities, and to be an effective contributor. We look forward to the next stage of the Retail Vision and the WRC will be a key partner in realizing these aspirations.
Nick Ireland, Usdaw Regional Secretary, said: “We have been working with the Welsh Government and our social partners for some time on how we can together address long-standing issues in the retail sector. and we are thrilled with the vision they announced today. The industry as a whole was struggling before Covid-19 with record numbers of store closures and job losses, so continued commitment to supporting high streets and regenerating town centers is crucial.
“We must not only secure jobs by helping the retail sector thrive, but they must be good jobs with living wages that promote equality and end precarious contracts, which is what we always have. demanded in our ‘New Deal for Workers’ campaign. The best way to achieve this is to bargain collectively with unions, which is an important part of this Vision for Retail in Wales.
“Usdaw stands ready to build on the work we have done with the Welsh Government, business representative groups and in engaging with retail employers and seeking to provide a workforce. highly motivated, well trained and respected work. For too long retail work has been undervalued, this vision gives us the opportunity to change that and give Welsh retail staff the dignity they deserve.