Retail and food services most at risk from soft skills deficit

  • Research reveals 122,000 UK workers in retail and food services will be held back by a lack of soft skills by 2020
  • Soft skills are worth £8 billion to the retail and food services industries
  • Cross-industry consultation on soft skills closes in one month

The retail, accommodation and food services industries will be most at risk if more is not done to recognise and promote the importance of soft skills – such as communication, teamwork, and time- and self-management – research warns.

A report by Development Economics, commissioned by McDonald’s UK, warns that in five years’ time more than 122,000 workers in retail and food services in the UK will be held back by a lack of soft skills. This compares to almost 53,000 workers in the health and social care sector, and almost 41,000 in professional services.

Soft skills are worth £88 billion to the UK economy and almost £8 billion to retail and food services alone. The report found they are vital across all sectors of the economy, but make a particularly important contribution to retail and hospitality, as well as public services like health, where customer care, personal attention and human interaction are absolutely crucial to business success.

But whilst these sectors remain the most at risk, the contribution of soft skills in these industries is recognised by business. 70% of employers in the retail sector believe soft skills are more important than academic qualifications, more than in almost any other sector. 97% of retailers said soft skills were important to their business success and 65% said they would be even more important in the future.


The research was commissioned by McDonald’s UK as part of a long-term campaign calling for the whole-scale re-evaluation of the value of soft skills. In January, McDonald’s and entrepreneur James Caan CBE launched a three-month consultation inviting businesses, policy experts, campaign groups and trade associations to create and share new ways to recognise and improve soft skills in the workplace. A series of long-term recommendations will be published later in 2015.


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