Industry charity the Retail Trust has begun a fundraising appeal after demand for its services for retail workers rose by nearly 90% due to Covid-19.
It is calling on people to support the appeal by walking, running, swimming or cycling four miles, donating a minimum of £4 and nominating another four people.
The charity has given out more than £1.2 million in financial aid and run over 11,000 counselling sessions since the start of the pandemic to help people working in the sector pay their rent and utility bills and provide support to those facing stress, anxiety, and depression.
This follows the loss of 170,000 retail jobs last year as more than 15,000 shops shut down*, as well as a huge spike in reports of abusive and violent incidents towards shop and supermarket workers.
Kristina Bavera was working on a supervisor at Paul Smith before the pandemic but received financial aid and counselling from the Retail Trust after she was placed on furlough and later lost her job with the fashion retailer.
Kristina said: “I applied for hundreds of jobs but received no replies. I was extremely depressed and anxious, and my husband and I had to move in with my mum as we could no longer afford our rent when he was also let go from his job. We then had to pay rent for a storage unit to put all of our things and furniture somewhere safe.
“I was eventually accepted to join a teaching agency as a one-to-one teaching assistant, and have now started a one-year teacher training course, but the worries of not working have never left me. I am at a point where I do not know what to expect next and I try not to look forward to things as they have not gone well in the past year.”
Chris Brook-Carter, chief executive of the Retail Trust, said, “Retail is one of the industries hit hardest by the pandemic, with thousands of people losing their jobs and many more facing financial, physical and emotional pressures, and this has driven a huge rise in requests for the Retail Trust’s help. Recent shortages of HGV drivers and other workers has only gone to show how much we rely on the people who keep our shops and services running and we’re now expecting demand for our services to increase even further in the run up to Christmas as retailers are forced to deal with ongoing uncertainty surrounding staffing and stock levels, alongside the end of the furlough scheme.
“As a charity, we’re focused on protecting the hope, health and happiness of everyone in retail, but the support we provide simply isn’t possible without the donations the Trust receives and the wider support of the retail sector. Together, we have a once-in-a-generation opportunity to create the kind of industry that places the health of its people at the centre of how we operate, and leave a legacy for the next generation of retailers that ensures our sector and its people thrive.”
Financial wellbeing provider Wagestream, a partner of Retail Trust and the fundraising appeal, has found that nearly half (45%) of all UK workers have been worried about their financial health over the past year and over 40% say their mental health has suffered because of financial concerns**.
Six million people across the UK have fallen behind on household bills because of the pandemic, with carers, shielders and key workers hardest hit, according to Citizens Advice***.
Peter Briffett, CEO and co-founder of Wagestream, adds: “This is a once-in-a-generation moment for the frontline workforce. Sectors like retail are under huge pressure to bounce back, and face a new war for recruiting and retaining talent, yet millions of people in work remain under-supported by a financial system stacked against them.
“These workers have helped keep our economy and our country moving, and the Retail Trust is doing fantastic work to support them. This is a vital fundraising effort and we’re proud to be supporting it, at Wagestream. ”
Visit www.retailtrust.org.uk/appeal to sign up the Retail Trust’s #fourretail fundraising challenge.
*According to data company Statista – https://www.statista.com/statistics/1109128/retail-job-losses-and-store-closures-in-the-uk/
** Wagestream UK Worker Wellbeing Survey, September 2021 (2,000 working adults in the UK; survey conducted by OnePoll)