The study found that although three million people in the UK are employed in retail and demand for staff is set to grow by more than one million by 2014, only 21% of 12- to 19-year-olds would consider a career in the sector.
More worrying for c-store retailers is that just 9% say they would think about working for a small independent outlet, while 40% would prefer to work for a large national employer.
Skillsmart Retail head of research Karen Charlesworth believes it's important retailers hammer home the message that a career in retail can be a smart choice. "Unless retailers take action now to promote retail as a career of choice, difficulties with recruitment and retention will simply be compounded," she said. "With retailing already present in every town, city and neighbourhood in the UK, it's clearly a career that can offer significant employment and up-skilling opportunities."
David Sands, who owns 20 stores in and around Fife, says retailers should do all they can to encourage people of all ages to work in the sector. "Although I wouldn't say we specifically target school leavers, they are an important part of our business," he said. "Working in a c-store rather than in a large shop means employees have to cover a greater variety of areas and have more responsibility from an earlier age."
David added: "There are examples of youngsters we have taken on who have moved on to senior roles in the company. Others who have left for other jobs often return to say how much they appreciate the experience they gained with us."