The number of UK workers employed by retail firms fell by over 3,000 in recent months despite an increase in the number of stores, a new study says.
The cut was mainly in non-food retailers, among full and part-time employees, said the British Retail Consortium (BRC).
Employment was down by 0.4%, or 3,100 jobs, in the second quarter of 2011 compared with a year ago, while there was also a "sharp" fall in the number of hours worked.
The BRC said it was the first time its study had recorded three consecutive months of job reductions, down by 0.2% in April, 0.4% in May and 0.7% in June.
The number of retail stores increased by 743, or 4.5%, in the latest quarter.
Stephen Robertson, director general of the BRC, said: "Most retailers continue to hold steady and almost one in five still expects to increase jobs, but a growing number are having to limit hours and reduce staff, leaving overall retail employment down on a year ago.
"The split reflects the very different fortunes of retailers selling food and those servicing discretionary and big ticket spending.
"These figures show the sector's crucial role in providing jobs, especially for the under 25s, can't be taken for granted. With the latest GDP data showing how weak the recovery is, the Government needs to act quickly.
"It must implement its growth strategy, particularly reducing Government-generated costs from regulation, inconsistent enforcement, business rates and new employment law measures.
"Large and medium-sized companies need the same moratorium on new regulation as the smallest firms."
Northern Ireland is expected to lose retail jobs due to decisions by Thorntons and Carpetright to close some stores. Homegrown furniture retailer Dekko closed its doors earlier this year with the loss of 42 jobs.
Value department store TJ Hughes has also gone into administration, putting up to 150 full and part-time jobs at risk in its Belfast store.
Of all retailers, food sellers were the most confident about employing more staff and investing in their business, according to the BRC.
But multiple supermarkets, represented in Northern Ireland by the new NI Retail Consortium, have said plans by Finance Minister Sammy Wilson to introduce a levy on the rates they pay on their Northern Ireland stores will harm their business and their ability to create employment.