Category: Retail Choice


 

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.

 

You are out of work, made redundant after spending the best years of your life working your way up the career ladder. The pay out is good, but won’t last forever. You have taken some time-out to ‘re-charge the batteries,’ the summer of sport is over  and the September transfer window has been and gone. Time to get out there and find that dream job. But hold on, the phone isn’t ringing. The jobs don’t seem to be out there, only those that don’t really appeal.  However,  you need to get back into work. Better to be in work than out of it, right?

This is a dilemma we discuss a great deal in the office, both  with clients or candidates and it is a very tough call. As the market picks up, it is a problem that more and more people will face. So, do you stick or twist?

Unfortunately, there is no right answer; it will depend on your personal circumstances. However, there are some factors to take into account. As you become a little more flexible in what you are looking for, you will get interviews. You interview well, and the process moves forwards, but there is a nagging doubt in the back of your mind. Is this the role you see yourself doing?

Firstly, as a candidate you are in control of the process as much as the client. When the offer comes, don’t feel bullied into accepting. Take your time; if you have other options consider them. A good hiring manager/recruiter will be fully aware of your situation and will not put undue pressure on you. If it is the right business they will understand it has to be the right move for you. If you do feel you are being boxed into a corner, ask why?  Why do they need a decision today? Why do they need you to start Monday? There maybe a valid reason which, again, a hiring manager would explain. However, if the pressure is coming to accept within a short time frame then question if you are the best hire or are you just a ‘filling a gap’.

Secondly, how will the move look on your CV? Consider how the role will be perceived by future employers. If you take a drop from say, Regional Manager to Area Manager, it could well pigeon hole you for future roles. Take a look at our blog is the recession creating a lost generation of middle management in retail for more detail on this. If the role can offer you progression and stretch then it must be considered as an option. Client side, we hear a great deal of feedback stating that the candidate was ‘too senior’ or ‘would leave when the market picks up.’ Personally, I would prefer a Premiership- standard right back playing for my team rather than a Conference League one! Let’s not underestimate how difficult it is to find employment. It is a process that most people don’t enjoy! If the business is the right one and they delivered on all they spoke about while courting you, then you would have no reason to look elsewhere, would you?

Do your research. Can the company back up what is says?  A quick check on Linkedin will give you an idea of how many present employees are at your level (and also tell you how many are looking for ‘opportunities!’)

What if you do accept the offer and it doesn’t work out? Do you really want to be going through the recruitment process again? Contacting recruitment agencies, picking up with your Linkedin contacts, sifting through the job boards? No, you don’t. It’s a pain, and one that not many people enjoy. After all, who wants to be talking to recruitment consultants all day?!  Do consider the impact this could have on your CV. One or two short term career moves are acceptable, any more than that can put off potential employers.

Finally, and most importantly, you may just need to be back earning a salary. Do your sums, work out when you need to be back in employment. A recruitment process can typically take anywhere from 3 weeks to 4 months! If you do turn down the first offer, make sure you have weighed up all the options. The market is not as bad as you think. Good clients are still hiring good people. The first offer you get maybe your dream job, but if it isn’t, don’t accept what could potentially be a damaging move.

Shane Horn

 

An ‘employer of choice’ can easily be described as one that inspires talented workers to join them and to stay with them. However, it is often difficult to ascertain whether a potential employer is one that fits this definition when you are considering a career move. There are a number of lists, awards and websites dedicated to sharing best companies to work for however there are of course many other companies that offer excellent opportunities. Here are a few points to consider when looking for your own ‘Employer of choice.’

Research the business

It is worth looking at the basics; the company mission and values. Does this match up with press statements and reviews? Talk to people in your network, what do they think? Look at awards and honours that the company has received that are linked to their ‘employer brand.’

Utilise your recruitment consultant
Recruitment consultants gather intimate knowledge of their clients’ organisational culture and values, company structure, career opportunities available, employee benefits and employment details. By working more closely with your consultant you will be able to access this knowledge. It is worth asking some specific questions:

  • How has the career of the person currently doing the position developed
  • What internal or external training is offered?
  • How would they describe the management/leadership style within the company?
  • Is the package on offer competitive with market rate?

Interviews – a two way process

This is a great opportunity for you to assess your potential line manager. It is worth trying to establish how well defined the company culture is and how this manifests itself.

  • How are employees’ contributions valued?
  • What career progression is available and is there a structured approach to succession planning?
  • How is the L&D function valued within the organisation and how does the business interact with its customers and environment?
  • Does the interviewer’s style match what you have researched?
  • What is the quality of working relationships, how do different functions interact with each other?
  • How much TRUST is there in the organisation? Are people trusted to do a good job? You can assess this by looking for signs of; openness (give and ask for feedback), honesty (what I say is what I mean), reliability (I will do what I promise to do) and acceptance.
  • Pay close attention to the environment, is the building cared for? Does the working environment provoke a positive feeling?

What is most important to you?

The reality is that few businesses will be able to deliver everything perfectly. Therefore it is worth putting a list together of what is important to you. Prioritise the key points and use this to guide you when assessing whether you wish to make an application or accept an offer.

Have we missed anything out? What would be on your list to understand what for you makes an ‘employer of choice’

Many of my everyday conversations are spent informing people about what is happening in the retail recruitment market. Many of the people I talk to ask me what the market is currently like for job opportunities which is interesting really, particularly given the adverse headlines that continue to hit the press. In fact it probably also reflects the conflicting signals that candidates seem to be picking up during their job search.

I think for most candidates when they first enter the market they are often pleasantly surprised by the volume of roles that appear to be available matching their skills and experience. However I think for the majority, this mild euphoria soon dissipates when they realise just how competitive it is in the market with a vast number of individuals chasing relatively lower job volumes.

So is it really as bad as people think it is? A recent report by retailchoice.com highlights some of the issues that our market is facing and I have to admit that on the whole it paints a fairly depressing picture.  Compared to last year, the number of roles advertised is down some 13% and whilst we are not down to the levels of 2009 yet, the trend unfortunately is definitely downwards. Whilst their website carries roles across a broad range of salaries, unsurprisingly it is the management roles that have been hit hardest with a fall of some 3000 roles.  This year has seen a number of large retailers go into administration such as Peacocks, Game, JJB etc. and fundamentally this has resulted in less retail stores trading and therefore the need for less management at both store and field level.

So where are people finding it toughest? Geographically there are some very different pictures. London continues to enjoy not only the highest volume of roles but also the least competition, where applications per job are at their lowest. This contrasts considerably with the North West, North East and Scotland who not only have to contend with fewer roles but much higher levels of competition.

Again, sector wise, there are quite wide disparities. Fashion has clearly been one of the hardest hit as consumers’ disposable income continues to be squeezed resulting in a 14% fall in vacancies, whilst the supermarkets have demonstrated resilience with an increase in job roles.

What is clear is that, in specialist area such as e-commerce, logistics etc. the demand and supply equation between roles and relevant candidates is nicely balanced with a good number of opportunities for people in that sector. This is further reflected across a number of other head office functions. For store and field managers the dynamics look a lot more challenging. Fewer stores mean fewer roles and the statistics show in some cases, applications are up as much as 50%.

The other interesting dynamic is the role of Linkedin; I recently read a survey conducted by Linkedin that suggested that although only 20% of candidates classed themselves as “active” , close to 80% of individuals would consider other opportunities. This was broken down as 20% “active”, 15% “tiptoer” (those candidates considering a move and reaching out to close associates) and then 44% “explorer” who are not actively looking for a job but would be willing to discuss new opportunities with recruiters. They classify the “tiptoer” and the “explorer” as being approachable.  The point here is that in reality, the 20% active candidate pool are actually competing with close to another 60% of the potential candidate pool who are also happy to be approached about job roles. Unfortunately, the increased accessibility of these individuals has only served to drive competition for roles even higher and it has been argued in a number of recent surveys that clients perceive passive candidates to be more attractive.

So what advice can we give? For most senior and middle managers the competition in the market means it is proving very difficult to move sector.  Most organisations are risk adverse when it comes to appointing positions and this is understandable given the very challenging economic environment.  My advice to people is to consider businesses where your skills and experience are going to be most marketable and transferable. I would also encourage candidates to use a broad strategy to access these roles, whether that is through their own network, agencies, Linkedin or their target Employer’s website.  With such fierce competition you will need to work smart and hard to beat the competition. Our website has some advice around these aspects should you want more information.

Without a shadow of doubt, for the vast majority of middle and senior management candidates the market out there remains tough. Whilst the number s are certainly negative, as I sit here and write, more positive economic data is being released and as we do come out of recession the market will inevitably pick up . In the meantime, I appreciate it is scant consolation but you are not the only one who is finding it tough…..

Russell Adams

LinkedIn

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