New research released in the March 2009 Australian Retailers Index revealed retailers are working hard to hold onto staff.

The study indicates that retailers understood the important role employment levels would play in economic recovery, with 65% of SME retailers maintaining staff levels.

Australian Retailers Association (ARA) executive director Richard Evans believes this result was despite 11% of SME retailers reporting a decrease in staff levels and 23% reporting an increase (resulting in a -12% retail employment growth index).

The Australian Retailers Index analyses the Sensis Business Index results for businesses in the retail sector, providing a snapshot of the retail sector every quarter in a wide range of categories: retailer confidence, retailer concerns, sales, profitability and employment, capital expenditure, wages and prices and assessment of federal government policies.

“The March Australian Retailers Index showed retailers suffering with falls in sales performance at -18%, were doing the right thing by adjusting their business paradigm, reducing other expenses and trying to stimulate consumer spend before letting staff go,” says Evans.

Although a decrease in employment levels was being considered by 14% of SME retailers in the past quarter, over 35% were reducing other costs as a result of current economic conditions.

Almost 20% were adding new products and 18% were advertising more to try and stimulate consumer spend.

The Index also revealed the attitude towards the Federal Government policies at -5% with retailers worried about coping with changes to IR laws.

“The good news looking forward is that retailers reported higher prospects for the coming quarter with employment growth expectations at positive 3%, this is up by five points from employment expectations for the last quarter,” says Evans.