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Last year saw an increase of 12% in IT and web design hiring compared to just a 3% rise in retail, according the latest analysis by specialist technology recruiter Greythorn.

The results also suggest that retail giants are being forced to invest in their online and back office IT functions as consumers ditch the high street and look to the web to do their shopping.

For example, Greythorn has seen growth of 89% in IT roles placed in online retail over the past year, when compared with the previous 12 months. 

“The list of high street insolvencies is becoming a roll-call and there appears to be no end of famous names struggling or going under,” said Mark Baxter, director of Greythorn.

“It is undoubtedly sad news, but there is a silver lining in the growth of IT roles. As online shopping grows, companies are increasingly investing in improving the customer experience and the back office operations supporting online sales.”

He added: “It is a key stage in transferring to a high tech economy. The number of specialised new roles are growing and that is only good news for IT professionals.”

According to the Office for National Statistics, January saw an 8.7% increase in online retail sales, despite a 0.6% year on year fall in overall retail sales, which highlights the challenge facing retailers to invest in online.

The number of roles in IT and web design has risen by 32,000 over the past year, with the biggest increase in web designers, with the number of roles increasing from 31,000 to 37,000 (19.4%).

IT business architect and system designer roles have risen 18.8% from 85,000 to 101,000 over the same period.

Also, IT salaries are typically higher than those in retail. The average salary of an IT system designer is £37,092, whereas a retail manager, with a similar level of seniority, earns an average salary of £21,237.

“A career in IT is potentially very lucrative and the number and diversity of roles is growing rapidly,” said Baxter.

“Obviously, there are specific technical skills that are needed, but it is a candidate’s market for experienced IT professionals who are either already in online retail or those in other sectors with transferrable skills.”

He added: “For people looking to retrain, web design and online retail offer excellent opportunities that will only increase as people vote with their feet and choose to stay at home rather than shop on the high street.”

In the latest job report from the Recruitment and Employment Confederation (REC) and KPMG found that in 2013 there has been strong demand for IT and computing staff.

In a ranking of demand for permanent employees by sector, IT narrowly missed out on the top spot to Engineering and Construction, but beat Medical, Executive, Accounting and Blue Collar jobs.