The end of 2012 - and beginning of 2013 – saw many giants of the high-street like HMV, Blockbusters and JJB Sports, facing challenging times. One of the main reasons companies like these have faced administration, is the rise of online shopping options. Websites like Amazon and ASOS have put a huge strain on traditional businesses, by offering the same products to customers for substantially less. While companies with outdated business models have struggled in this new environment, the changes have represented great news for customers, and warehouse workers.
There's little doubt that the retail industry has changed irreversibly. Online shopping has given individuals the chance to shop whenever they want, with added convenience and cheaper prices as standard. Recent figures from real business show that mobile shopping rose by 254% between 2010 and 2011, before growing by another 300% the next year. Mobile shopping is further encouraging the shift to online shopping options, making it easier for individuals to buy on impulse, wherever they are. The most successful, and savvy, high-street businesses are working hard to align their online operations with their high-street brands, recognising the importance of developing this area. As an example, John Lewis grew their online presence by 40% in 2012, meaning it now consists of 25% of the company's entire business.
What does this mean for warehouse jobs?
This shift online has resulted in increased numbers of warehouse and distribution jobs. Online companies need extra manpower behind the scenes to store stock, package, and deliver orders. Rather than wasting money staffing hundreds of shops across the country, retail businesses and supermarkets can simply build a number of huge warehouses – Amazon currently serves the entire UK with eight warehouses, for example – and manages everything, from packaging orders to managing stock levels, from these locations. The wasteful middle-man of the store has been removed in this new business model, meaning resources are focussed on the logistics, creating warehouse and distribution jobs all the time.
What does the future hold?
The hyper competitive nature of online retail means companies need to keep recruitment levels high, or customers will simply switch service. Amazon's own studies revealed that a tenth of a second extra wait for webpages to load leads to 1% less customer activity, and the company views this as unacceptable. To maintain this degree of commitment to customer service and competitiveness, it's essential to have a strong and numerous work force to make the order process quick and efficient. The company took on 10,000 temporary workers to cope with Christmas demand in 2012, as an example of how the requirement for efficiency is benefitting recruitment levels.
The online trend is only likely to continue, with mobile shopping continuing to grow in popularity. While shopping from phones is already commonplace, a Cisco report recently predicted that tablet sales in the UK are likely to grow by 46% each year. With more mobile computing devices in the hands of customers, retail companies are likely to focus on making it simpler to shop online, seeing extra warehouse jobs created to cater to the demand.