From free crumpets to store discounts, UK grocers lure workers

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FILE PHOTO: A man looks at products on a shelf inside a Tesco Extra superstore near Manchester

By Richa Naidu

LONDON (Reuters) – With job vacancies in Britain close to a record high, retailers including Tesco Plc have begun offering better perks to workers, enticing them with free food and essentials during a cost-of-living crisis. Britain’s labour market emerged from the pandemic with unemployment at its lowest levels since 1974 and record energy prices that have contributed to surging inflation.

Vacancies in the three months to July fell for the first time since mid-2020 but stayed close to an all-time high at 1.3 million. Tesco, Britain’s biggest retailer, has in recent weeks increased the number of free products that it offers to staff in back of store areas, it told Reuters.

Workers are given free fruit; hot and cold drinks; breakfast items such as cereal, crumpets and spreads; bread, pasta and noodle snacks; and toiletries including deodorant and sanitary products, a Tesco spokesperson said.

Retailers are competing for workers among themselves, and also with competing sectors like hospitality, Linda Ellett, KPMG’s head of consumer markets, retail and leisure, said.

“It’s people in stores, people in the warehouses and logistics — they’re no longer seen as attractive roles,” Ellett said. At the same time, retailers are “concerned about seasonal staff, particularly in the supply chain,” she added. About two weeks ago, John Lewis said it would recruit 10,000 holiday staff, offering workers would receive free meals in the period to help with the rising cost of living.

“If things like food and hygiene products are available, then that’s savings that workers can make, so that is a creative way of making employment more attractive that costs less to the retailer than paying more money to workers,” Ellett said.

Some retailers have raised base pay this year, including Sainsbury’s, which increased wages to at least 10 pounds ($11) an hour.

Sainsbury has also raised staff discounts to as much as 20% on some days, a spokesperson said.

($1 = 0.8759 pounds)

(Reporting by Richa Naidu; Editing by Lisa Shumaker)