London (CNN Business)Tesco is creating 16,000 jobs to meet surging demand in its online business, delivering a rare boost to the struggling UK economy.
Britain’s largest supermarket chain said in a statement on Monday that the new permanent roles are in addition to 4,000 jobs it has already added since the start of the coronavirus crisis.
Workers who joined on a temporary basis at the start of the pandemic will be offered the positions first. The jobs include pickers to assemble customer orders, delivery drivers and other roles in stores and distribution centers, Tesco added.
The retailer now serves nearly 1.5 million customers online each week, up from around 600,000 at the start of the pandemic. “These new roles will help us continue to meet online demand for the long term,” UK CEO Jason Tarry said in a statement.
Online grocery sales have soared in the United Kingdom since coronavirus lockdowns were introduced in March, with retailers anticipating that some shoppers who have made the shift will permanently ditch their old habits. The opportunity was highlighted last month when Amazon (AMZN) said it will offer free grocery deliveries to Prime members in London and the surrounding areas.
Tesco said that before the pandemic around 9% of its sales were online, a figure that has grown to more than 16%. The company expects the value of online sales to grow by two thirds compared to 2019, reaching over £5.5 billion ($7.2 billion) this year.
Its announcement on jobs will come as a welcome reprieve to British retail workers, who are contending with mass layoffs at peers such as Marks & Spencer and Walgreens (WBA)-owned pharmacy chain Boots.
Britain is facing a growing unemployment crisis, with the Office for National Statistics saying earlier this month that 730,000 jobs have been shed since the coronavirus pandemic shuttered businesses in March. British Airways, BP (BP) and aerospace company Rolls-Royce (RYCEF) are among major UK companies culling thousands of positions.
Tesco said on Monday that the number of new jobs may increase further as its online business continues to grow. The company also plans to offer six months of work experience to 1,000 people under 25, as part of a government-subsidized program.
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