Retail Sector COVID-19 Employment Survey

The global impact of COVID-19 on the retail sector is well documented, with worldwide growth estimates as much as halved versus pre-crisis forecasts. To provide insight into the specific ramifications for the sector across Australia and New Zealand, we surveyed retail professionals with the aim of understanding trends related to change in individual circumstance and…


The global impact of COVID-19 on the retail sector is well documented, with worldwide growth estimates as much as halved versus pre-crisis forecasts. To provide insight into the specific ramifications for the sector across Australia and New Zealand, we surveyed retail professionals with the aim of understanding trends related to change in individual circumstance and expectations for the future.

This is a summary of the questions we asked and our key findings.   

Which of the following best describes your situation since COVID-19 hit?

A predictably high percentage of respondents, more than 64%, were no longer working as normal as a result of the crisis.  That overwhelming majority is further split between those who have been stood down (i.e. those still legally employed, but no longer required to attend work due to lack of requirement) and those who have permanently lost their jobs.

If You are not currently working due to stand down or loss of hours, when do you see yourself returning to work?

The overall impression that the employment situation will improve in time is mirrored in the responses we received to this question. More than 70% of those who had been stood down or lost hours believed that they would be back at work within 3 months from the date of the survey, and 50% believed that they would be back at work within 4 weeks.

What is your expectation around returning to work?

Confirmation of the significant expected change to the sector, when some form of normality does resume, only 26% of respondents believe that they will be returning to their pre-COVID employer in the same role function. 50% of those not still working, see their professional futures being elsewhere when they do find a new role.

If you are looking for a new job, where will you look?

With almost 66% of all active job seekers stating it as their preference, SEEK remains the job searching tool of choice for retail workers across Australia and New Zealand. Interestingly, despite the widespread use of social media, it appears that candidates still do not feel that the sector has adopted the tool to advertise opportunities in any significant way as none of those surveyed suggested they would use it.

What do you expect to see in terms of job opportunities available as we move through the COVID-19 Crisis?

Unsurprisingly, the vast majority of workers believe that finding a retail job is likely to remain more difficult for the foreseeable future. It is worth mentioning though, that a not-insignificant percentage, roughly 20% believed that it would not become harder, and may even get easier. This result backs up the view held by many that although the overall impact is negative, there are sub-sectors within retail which are being less adversely affected.

Concluding Thoughts

Like so many other sectors, and our society more generally, the retail sector has a long road to recovery. Our survey does suggest however that there is a resilience and a bullishness amongst workers that the situation will turn in time and those out of work or stood down believe they will be back in employment in the short to medium term.

To discuss our survey results or any of our retail recruitment services in more detail contact one of our specialist branches today.