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At the Crossroads: The future of British retail

Cameron Tait outlines the findings of the Fabian Society's retail taskforce, with recommendations for the government to ensure the sector can thrive.


  • At the Crossroads
  • By Cameron Tait
  • Published 30 January 2017

This is the report from the Fabian Society’s retail taskforce. The report finds that changes in the retail landscape could lead to more than 1 million job losses or a race to the bottom on working conditions. Despite this, the government’s industrial strategy continues to ignore the UK’s largest industry. The taskforce was established to look at how productivity and pay could be improved in the UK retail sector as it undergoes a dramatic transformation. Drawing on public hearings, expert testimony and the insights of people working in retail, the taskforce proposes a 10-point plan for how the government can support retailers to improve jobs, grow the economy and revitalise community spaces.

The taskforce proposes a 10-point plan to support connected retailers to flourish:

  1. The government should place the future of retail at the heart of its modern industrial strategy.
  2. The government should aim to diversify the mix of retail ownership models and encourage the voice of employees to be heard to support long-termism in the industry.
  3. The government should establish a new ‘super skills council’ for retail with a mission to drive up skills and standards in the industry.
  4. The secretary of state for business, energy and industrial strategy should ask the competition and markets authority to lead an inquiry into allegations of monopolistic activities by platform businesses and the effect they have on the UK retail market.
  5. The secretary of state for business, energy and industrial strategy should ask Innovate UK to establish an eleventh Catapult centre for retail.
  6. The chancellor should set up a review of tax paid by retailers with a mission to level the fiscal playing field between online-only, store-based and multi-channel retailers without reducing UK and local authority tax bases.
  7. Local authorities should work with retailers to establish local retail plans.
  8. The government should introduce additional protections against exploitative contracts.
  9. The new director of labour market enforcement should establish quicker and more affordable means for workers to request a change in their employment status.
  10. Further rises in the national living wage and government support for the voluntary living wage.
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Cameron Tait

Cameron Tait is head of the Changing Work Centre and senior research fellow at the Fabian Society.


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