Colourful numbers scattered on white

By Russell Adams, AdMore Recruitment– Specialists in Retail and Hospitality Recruitment, Search & Selection, Talent Management and Career Development.

Last autumn I wrote a blog summarising the state of the retail recruitment market. With Christmas and sales out the way and following a wave of statistics published, I thought it was a good time to look back on the market but also to look at the consequences for individuals and how they manage their careers.  

Over the last few weeks a number of figures have been released and by and large they have all painted a pretty negative picture of the retail recruitment market reflecting the pain and challenges seen by a number of retail businesses.  With these statistics based on 2012 they may take some account of Comet but won’t factor in the impact of Jessops, Blockbuster and HMV.

Figures published by the BRC show that in Q4 2012 there was a small increase in overall numbers employed in the sector of 0.6% but that this was largely being driven by growth in the number of individuals working on a part time basis. A fall in the number of units by 3.6% is of no surprise and it will no doubt increase once the true impact of the recent administrations is felt. More worryingly was the forward looking survey which suggested that some 50% of companies were planning to reduce their headcounts in 2013.

Recent statistics from the Retail Choice job board show that in the 2nd half of 2012 the number of roles advertised fell by a staggering 25% with a fall in management roles being the major driver falling some 32%. This fall in numbers could be due to a number of factors. Firstly that the overall number of roles in retail is declining, that individuals are less willing to change positions in this volatile market or a broad trend away from always advertising such roles on job boards.   In reality I suspect it is a combination. Clearly with a declining store count on the High St, even with the growth in online retail the overall need for employment in retail is likely to be in decline. Secondly, the recent failings on the High Street will have given little confidence to individuals who are thinking of moving. If you are well rated and secure in your current role, you may need quite a large incentive to move to another organisation. That said I think for many individuals they have had this in the back of their mind for the last couple of years and at some point in order to progress their careers they will need to take that risk if they are not able to gain the progression they desire internally.  On my last point I do believe that job boards are still a mainstay of recruitment for roles at a variety of levels but the recruitment market is increasing in complexity and this is having a knock on effect on how candidates go about their job search. Whatever the factors behind the fall in jobs, the upshot is that competition for roles intensifies and Retail choice reports an increase in applications for each Management role of an incredible 50%.

As I wrote in my recent blog on the future of the High St  stores need to focus on providing a compelling reason to shop their bricks and mortar store and provide a customer experience. This in turn is leading retailers to look for individuals with a different skill set and experience than in the past. So it is not all doom and gloom. As the high street changes and has to adapt to the growth in digital, some job areas will continue to grow leading to a skills shortage in some specialist areas, examples of which would be e-commerce and visual merchandising.

Another interesting dynamic is that most retailers have spent the last few years aggressively cutting their cost bases and rationalising their businesses.  From the some recent conversation with senior retailers it is difficult to see in most organisations where they can cut further in 2013 and that for many the only way forward is to now starting aggressively growing their top line sales. I think inevitably this will lead to further movement in the market over the next year or so as businesses seek individuals with a different skill set who can help them drive growth.

So what does this mean?

Without doubt the job market for candidates is as competitive as it has been over the last few years. Most commentators agree that physical footprints will decline overtime and unfortunately this will lead to less demand for Store Managers, Area Managers, Regional Directors and Operations Directors and people need to consider the consequences of that. All of the statistics support this fact with the only real question being the pace at which the decline in stores will occur. As stark as this sounds it must be a consideration for individuals working in this area. For more central roles demand is likely to be more constant but again some areas may well contract as the nature of retailing continues to change. The changes will have some positive effect, clearly in specialist areas such as e-commerce there will be continued growth as this area of retail develops.

As the market becomes more competitive, individuals need to make sure they are proactively managing their careers, taking control trying to set themselves apart from others in the market. We have previously talked about the importance of how you manage your job search.

With no sign of improvement in outlook for candidates there has been much discussion amongst my colleagues around how individuals more proactively manage their careers with a clearer long term strategy.

Overall people need to think carefully about the skills and experience they have and which businesses may be interested in these. But more than that they need to think longer term about the skills and experience they need to gain in order to fulfil their career ambitions. Which skills are going to be most sought after in the future and how can they can these be gained?

By Russell Adams, AdMore Recruitment– Specialists in Retail and Hospitality Recruitment, Search & Selection, Talent Management and Career Development.

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