Tesco is to permanently employ 16,000 extra staff taken on during the pandemic to help support a surge in online grocery trade.
What Are The Job Roles?
The roles include 10,000 pickers, Tesco’s move comes after the electrical goods specialist AO.com, the DIY chain Kingfisher and the delivery firms DPD and Hermes hired thousands more workers combined to cope with the rise in home deliveries who select and pack grocery orders for home delivery, and 3,000 drivers, as well as a variety of other roles in stores and distribution centres.
Tesco’s move comes after the electrical goods specialist AO.com, the DIY chain Kingfisher and the delivery firms DPD and Hermes hired thousands more workers combined to cope with the rise in home deliveries.
E-Commerce, Boon Or Bane?
However, the shift online has hit high streets hard, with Marks & Spencer, John Lewis and Boots among the chains shutting stores and cutting jobs. London department store Liberty is also planning redundancies via a voluntary scheme under which at least 50 of its 550-plus UK team are expected to go.
The UK’s biggest supermarket said it had already hired 4,000 other permanent staff since the start of the pandemic, during which it took on more than 40,000 temporary workers to help cope with higher demand and to cover for those forced to self-isolate. Some of those workers, who included pilots, pub staff and others put on furlough from their usual jobs, have now returned to their posts or found new work elsewhere.
The hiring comes as online groceries have risen to 16% of Tesco’s sales during the pandemic, up from about 9% at the beginning of the year. The supermarket is expecting online sales of £5.5bn this year, up from £3.3bn last year.
The supermarket’s experience reflects rapid growth in online sales across the UK so that home deliveries now account for 13.5% of the grocery market, up from 7.4% before lockdown.
Overall grocery sales are also up strongly as the move to working from home and closure of schools prompted a switch to home cooked meals and away from meals at restaurants, coffee shops and canteens.
The growth in the online market has prompted Sainsbury’s, Asda, Morrisons and Waitrose all to expand their delivery networks. Amazon has also stepped up its activity, offering its Prime subscription customers free grocery delivery.
The supermarkets are also gearing up to make the most of Ocado’s switch from partnering with Waitrose to Marks & Spencer next week which could prompt some shoppers to change provider.
Online growth is not expected to be particularly helpful for profits at the supermarkets, however, as the need to take on new staff, buy vans and add other equipment for delivery systems all add to costs and potentially take sales away from stores.
But retail analyst Clive Black said that a move towards larger online orders and better efficiency was helping. “The step-up in the overall value of the UK grocery market, in revenue terms, and the migration from modest loss-making to marginal profitability [online] means that we see the UK supermarkets as emerging butter side up from the step-change in online grocery activity,” he said.
Tesco brought in 400 extra vans and changed shopping hours so more orders could be picked in stores to help expand its service to almost 1.5 million customers a week online, up from about 600,000 at the start of the pandemic.
Jason Tarry, the head of Tesco in the UK and Ireland, said: “Since the start of the pandemic, our colleagues have helped us to more than double our online capacity, safely serving nearly 1.5 million customers every week and prioritising vulnerable customers to ensure they get the food they need. These new roles will help us continue to meet online demand for the long term.”
Alongside creating the permanent roles, Tesco said it planned to support the government’s Kickstart work placement scheme by offering places to 1,000 young people. More than 80 young people will join internship schemes in stores, distribution centres and offices next month. Almost 50 students also joined Tesco’s summer internship programme this year, which was delivered virtually.