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Employers welcome new guidance to help retail sector focus on social mobility

A retail employee types on a screen with a flannel shirt hanging behind him

Social Mobility Commission launches new sector-specific toolkit to promote socio-economic diversity and inclusion in the retail sector

A new toolkit providing retailers with resources and guidance on how to recruit, hire and develop a diverse workforce has been published today by the Social Mobility Commission.

The unique features of the retail industry make the sector highly accessible to those from lower socio-economic backgrounds, and give it the capacity to be a real engine of social mobility in the UK. Retail offers a wide range of entry-level jobs, which require no qualifications, and recruits within local communities, providing opportunities in social mobility coldspots. 

However, despite 44% of retail workers coming from a working class background, a group which makes up 39% of the general population, the industry struggles to diversify its workforce across different types of roles. Frontline jobs are filled with those from lower socio-economic backgrounds, but higher-paid professional and managerial office roles are still dominated by those from high socio-economic backgrounds.  

The Retail Toolkit offers practical support and advice to retailers on how to identify and remove invisible barriers at every stage of the employee journey, and includes case studies from retailers who have successfully implemented diversity and inclusion initiatives.

Employers and industry groups from across the retail sector have welcomed the toolkit. Those who have contributed or endorsed the toolkit include the British Retail Consortium, Retail Week, Superdrug, Jardine Motors Group, Enterprise, Co-op, TJX Europe and Savers.

Responding to the release of the toolkit, Helen Dickinson OBE, Chief Executive of the British Retail Consortium said:

“Diversity and inclusion is not only the moral thing to do, but it is vital for commercial success. I am encouraged to see from our most recent report that social mobility has a much greater focus than it had even two years ago. While retail has traditionally been an industry where anyone can rise up through the ranks – we must be sure that everyone, no matter their background, has equal opportunity to enter and achieve their full potential in the workplace.”

Parminder Kohli, Social Mobility Commissioner and Senior Vice President EMEA at Shell Lubricants said:

“We’re delighted to launch our new toolkit today. It’s been great to collaborate with so many retail organisations to ensure that the advice it contains is as practical as possible. 

With its large number of entry-level jobs and presence in every part of the country, the retail sector has the potential to be a real leader in promoting social mobility. As more retailers implement the suggestions set out in this toolkit, they will ensure that the industry is hiring and promoting people based on their skills, and what they have to offer, not because of their background.”

The toolkit is available to download at

Notes to Editors 

The Social Mobility Commission is an independent advisory non-departmental public body  established under the Life Chances Act 2010 as modified by the Welfare Reform and Work Act  2016. It has a duty to assess progress in improving social mobility in the UK and to promote social  mobility in England. 

The commission board comprises: 

Interim Chair

Alun Francis, Principal and CEO of Oldham College 


Dr Raghib Ali, Senior Clinical Research Associate at the MRC Epidemiology Unit at the University of Cambridge
Matthew Goodwin, Professor of Political Science at the University of Kent
Ryan Henson, Chief Executive Officer at the Coalition for Global Prosperity
Parminder Kohli, Senior Vice President EMEA at Shell Lubricants
Resham Kotecha, Global Head of Policy at the Open Data Institute
Tina Stowell, The Rt Hon Baroness Stowell of Beeston MBE
Rob Wilson, Chairman at WheelPower – British Wheelchair Sport

Press Contact 

Shannon Miller: