Senior executives at UK retailers Tesco and Sainsbury’s have called for the industry to take more pride in their sector as they highlighted its significance to the country’s economy.

Tesco commercial and marketing director Richard Brasher, who is set to become the chief executive of the retailer’s UK arm, and Sainsbury’s chief executive Justin King emphasised the importance of the sector at the IGD annual convention yesterday (13 October).

“Our success is known by too few. Fierce competition helps consumers, but prevents the industry from speaking with more confidence about the industry,” Brasher said.

King said “one in seven UK jobs are in the retail sector” and argued that the industry has been “consistently creating jobs throughout the downturn”.

“The grocery industry simply does not have the voice that it deserves,” he added.

However, the Sainsbury’s boss warned the grocery industry is facing a skills shortage, with many places on food courses are being taken up by international students.

King also argued that the industry does not get the attention it deserves as a career path for graduates and emphasised that has led to a skill shortage in the UK.

He said: “We know that our industry is lacking in specialist skills. Many of you will be aware of the lack of students on some of the specialist food technology courses, and to the extent that they do have students many are from overseas. There’s nothing wrong in that at all, it is helping the funding of our universities, but it is leaving us short.”

King’s statement came as the IGD, of which King is president, announced plans to launch an academy to train and develop people within the retail sector.