Tag Archive: recession


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

Last year I wrote about the lost generation of middle managers in retail whom face limited progression opportunities as a result of the recession. Since that article the redundancies have continued to flow thick and fast with all sorts of rumours about which retailer is going to collapse next. One might think that with all the doom and gloom in the market that the opportunities to develop your career are few and far between. However…

If you are ambitious and do want to avoid this scenario you have two very simple options, either ensure you are promoted in your current business or move to another organisation where there is genuine opportunity for advancement.

How to progress your career within your current business:

  • Does your Line manager, Head of Talent, HRBP know you have ambitions to progress? Sounds simple but don’t assume so. Be explicit about your career targets. Clearly you will need to judge when and how to position this conversation but it really is the starting point.
  • Are you getting the results? You know in your heart of hearts if you really are delivering, if you are not you need to address this.
  • So, you are doing well…does everyone else know that? It is all well and good if you run the most profitable part of the business but if the board / functional heads don’t know this you will have few sponsors when the next round of restructuring starts. I have met a lot of candidates with relatively modest results but who were fantastic self-publicists and as a result they were promoted!
  • Seek feedback. The old 360 appraisal can be painful but it will do two things; firstly it will highlight what you need to do to improve and secondly it says a lot about your focus on self-development. This is a competency that is being increasingly measured in assessment of stretch potential.
  • Work harder, it sounds old fashioned but to be blunt it makes an enormous difference to your senior stakeholders. Admittedly there has been a societal push towards work/life balance (and rightly so) but once again those who do more…achieve more.
  • Get involved in project work. If you are Head office based get in to stores, if you are operations based get in to Head Office. A key determinant of progression is breadth of experience. Your Operations Directors, Managing Directors and other board members will have done this at some point in their career. This will also expose you to other stakeholders and will give you a chance to self-publicise!
  • Socialise. Get to know the senior team on a more informal basis. Once again, the people whom are liked by the board tend to get the better jobs.
  • Identify sponsors, people whom have a vested interest in you doing well and will fight your corner / put a good word in when necessary. It’s an ego boost for the other party and you will also get good career advice.

You need to look elsewhere…what do you do?

  • Put together a ‘campaign’ plan with short, medium and long term objectives.
  • Identify what you want to do next. It is worth sense checking with your contacts that this is realistic. A major salary increase and a promotion are highly unlikely.
  • Call your contacts in the recruitment firms. While we recruitment consultants are often grouped together with estate agents, double glazing salesmen and those chaps whom knock on your door to kindly inform you they have just tarmacked your drive and you owe them 200 quid… However, we do on occasion add real value. There is an art to working your relationship with consultants – in short, what you put in you will get back. Behave transactionally or with contempt and expect a mirrored response. Similarly, if you want to get the best out of a consultant, treat him like a human being and they will do the same.
  • Speak to your sponsors. If you have built a few up throughout your career they should be able to put you in touch with their contacts, hopefully with a recommendation.
  • Call old bosses. If you did a good job for them before they will be inclined to give you another go.
  • Fire up your Linkedin profile. It is beginning to position itself as a job board these days and most internal and external recruiters use it as a secondary database. While you are there delete any old profiles on the job boards – they are very much aimed at the junior end of the market. Bear in mind that this is your shop window and as every Operations Director will tell you, customers won’t go in and buy if it isn’t well cared for.
  • Don’t be afraid to invest in some external support and advice this may be as simple as a CV rewrite or career/life coaching. A good quality CV rewrite will cost between £300-£500…roughly the same amount as a new set of wheels for your car…
  • Finally, do your research before accepting an offer. A large number of candidates have found their CVs becoming very patchy over the course of the recession as they have hopped from one business to another. The one factor that generally underpins any mistake in a career move is a lack of due diligence. Would you buy a house without having it surveyed?

Good luck…

Jez Styles

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Russell Adams – Director, AdMore Recruitment

Over the last few weeks much has been written and discussed about the future of Britain’s High Streets and retail generally. It has dominated the news channels, the papers and even Question Time.  Clearly the sad plight of Comet, Jessops and HMV has crystalized in many people’s mind the changing retail landscape and the headwinds many retailers face. Such a period of publicity and scrutiny form the wider public has not been this intense since the demise of Woolworths. Many opinions and predictions have been voiced over the last couple of weeks but in contrast to some reports this is a highly complex issue, driven and influenced by a multitude of factors with no easy answers for retailers, the government or indeed landlords.

Many people point simply to the growth of online retailing over the last decade and the changing patterns of consumers as the major cause and decline of the high street. Without a doubt this has been a significant factor and pure online businesses with a lower cost base have been able to undercut the traditional Bricks and Mortar retailers.  However, this issue has not happened overnight and businesses like Amazon haven’t suddenly appeared.  I do think that this argument at times is still overstated. Firstly, according to some reports, approximately 90% of products are still purchased in a physical retail environment, with, according to the British Retail Consortium 43% being spent on the high street. No one questions that this figure will decrease over time but it still doesn’t justify the statement that the High Street is dead. Secondly, everyone acknowledges that much of the future is in multi-channel or Omni-channel and where businesses have got it right, such as John Lewis, it has delivered fantastic results. Further innovations such as Click and Collect are needed to respond to the change in customers’ behaviours.  Looking back over the last few weeks a number of businesses have shown the benefit of this multi-channel approach with much improved results from the likes of Argos.

Another suggested factor affecting the failing High Street is the poor management of a number of retail businesses. With the businesses that have entered administration, many fingers have been pointed but I personally would like to defend these executives. These were often well run businesses with Boards made up of experienced and successful retailers, who in many circumstances have joined the business to try and support its turnaround. I do wonder if it was more to do with whether shareholders were prepared to forego short term gains to ensure long term success. As has been seen, being a quoted company can be challenging when a major change in strategic direction is required.

There are also certainly challenging times ahead for landlords. Indeed one in ten shops on the High Street currently lay empty with demand focused on the large and successful shopping centres.  While this shift is not new, as multiple retailers look to reduce their store footprints this will only lead to less demand on the high street and a greater need to be innovative with property uses.  Many have called for tighter planning regulations to prevent more large shopping malls being built but this really isn’t a long term strategy. Fundamentally customers want to shop in a convenient and enjoyable way and we must give people a reason to visit the High Street, whether that be better parking or a better range of local products etc.  In the short term there is little hope that the leisure and restaurant sectors will snap up some of these units as they themselves struggle against the economic headwinds causing more people to stay at home. Much debate has been made around what should be done however we are seeing some form of renaissance for the independent retailers. It is difficult to argue that there is just overcapacity on some High Streets and thought must be given as to how property is reclassified and used. Going forward it is unlikely that retail demand will match the supply and it may be that residential use and the reshaping of the high street is inevitable.

Clearly the economic slump has been a major factor affecting the high street. After 5 years of negative or little growth, GDP is still 3% below pre-recession levels. I do believe though that in some cases it has just sped up the demise of businesses who faced structural changes to their market. HMV, Jessops and indeed Woolworths are all businesses described as “walking dead” or “Zombie”. Many of the businesses may have survived a little longer in more buoyant times but would still have inevitably faced a bleak future because of the changes to the marketplace and sectors in which they operated. Retail history is littered with consolidation and administrations as the sector rapidly evolves and develops. As always there are winners and losers and the ability to anticipate and adapt to the changing needs is essential in delivering long term success.

Many people have looked towards the government to take more decisive action, whether that be to cut rates or to support Portas or other initiatives, however no action will ultimately change the underlying trends and headwinds for the sector.  There are no easy solutions. Portas and other initiatives are important but change needs to happen and it will be painful.

The last few years have been extremely challenging for the High Street and as times became tougher, costs have been cut which has reduced the level of service and the attractiveness of the environment giving consumers less reason to visit physical locations. Although not the only solution, service, product knowledge and in-store theatre will provide a greater incentive for people to shop both physical stores and the High Street in general. Businesses need to invest where possible to create and deliver this environment. I wish I had another example but I am afraid like many others I cannot help but admire Apple. Unlike most other businesses they have been investing in their store portfolio and can boast some very impressive sales per square foot. I do appreciate part of their success is the desirability of their products but to be fair they can easily be purchased on-line like so many other products. The reason for their success from a store perspective is they have successfully created a retail environment that enhances the purchase experience but perhaps critically, the customer service and product knowledge offers real value to the customer and gives a genuine reason to visit the store.

There are certainly many challenges ahead but I am not sure it is as apocalyptic as some suggest – there is a future and it is about adapting to that future to meet the needs of changing consumer behavior. Many retailers need to adjust their store portfolios and this will cause short term pain. High Streets are and will continue to be an important part of the retail mix but in a different format to what we see today.  People still love to shop, people love to see and feel product in certain categories but they need to be able to shop in a convenient, enjoyable and engaging way.

Russell Adams

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

You will have read this morning that HMV has entered in to administration with the potential loss of over 4000 jobs. This is deeply sad and on the back of the collapse of Comet and Jessops in recent weeks it is perhaps the worst period in retail since the demise of Woolworths. Much of the commentary on HMV would suggest this is a result of structural failure, that the model simply has no place in modern retail. In my view this is rather simplistic. The reality is that HMV has faced a set of unique (in their combination and complexity) challenges that have served to paralyse the business over a period when change was crucial.

HMV’s demise can be traced back to the original stock market flotation in 2002. There is a conflicting argument as the reality is that the funds generated from the float served to fuel HMV’s expansion and competitor acquisitions. This expansion allowed HMV to build the best economies of scale in their market and to be the last man standing (Our Price, Virgin/Zavvi, Woolworths, Silverscreen, Sanity, Borders, MVC…the list goes on). However, being a PLC also presented the Management team with significant barriers to future proofing the business.

At the same time HMV was floating in 2002, BT had just 136,000 Broadband subscribers and additionally Apple’s IPOD had recently launched in October 2001. There were some predictions about how these two products would affect the market but in truth very few people predicted just how quickly they would be adopted. Broadband offered consumers an opportunity to not only browse products in a different way but also to consume them differently. Many critics of HMV have suggested that they should have launched a download service earlier however in reality there was stiff resistance within the wider industry. The Wild West days of the noughties and the plethora of pirate websites where you could download unlimited amounts of content for free initially pushed music and film companies to further retrench their position (on providing official channels). By the time they had realised the tide was against them, Apple amongst others had taken up the mantle (Apple were not really associated with music/film consumption before 2002). HMV have been playing catch up ever since and the brand had been severely compromised as a result.

The pirate websites also revealed an unsavoury insight in to our own cultural acceptance and views on theft. Unfortunately many people did not see illegal downloading and CD/DVD pirating as morally wrong. How often did you see individuals selling pirated product, unchallenged in pubs or street corners? I suspect this cultural acceptance is entrenched in the mix tapes of the 80’s and the romanticism that this still evokes. This created two major issues for entertainment retailers – lost revenue and erosion of what consumers were prepared to pay legally.

In 2002 it was not uncommon to pay £13.99/£19.99 for a Chart album or film and much more for older back-catalogue products. Today you will often see the same products on sale for £7.99/£13.99 respectively, or less. This is quite a dramatic price deflation when you consider that over the same period a loaf of bread (800g) has risen from an average of 60p to £1.30 today. The price deflation was deepened by competitors running loss leaders in a bid to survive, the market entry of the supermarkets and finally internet shopping.

During the same period of price deflation there has been a very real increase in costs. Payroll has continued to rise and unfortunately HMV has an expensive supply chain model. The cost of getting products on the shelves is much more expensive than it is for a Supermarket with employment-as-a- percentage-of- sales being close to double that of the Supermarkets. A typical HMV store has significantly more SCUs (product lines) than virtually any other similarly sized retailer. Each SCU has to be processed and put on shelves individually, a time consuming exercise but an essential one if you want a wide selection. The only way to have reduced this cost would have been to move this back-catalogue purely on-line.

This however was also extremely problematic. In the early days online retailers were making very little money. Amazon ran at a loss for many years…without paying much tax. HMV were in a tricky situation on two counts.  Moving their online business off-shore would attract negative press, a consumer backlash and a legal minefield. This coupled with a reluctance to under-cut the physical retail pricing model meant that the website failed to gain momentum. By the time that ‘perceived’ consumer sentiment had begun to soften, HMV had fallen too far behind. This is clearly a huge mistake but to some extent an understandable one.

The stock market- fuelled expansion brought further issues. Growth was fundamentally underpinned by store expansion with over 100 stores opened in a 5 year period. The dynamics of the market dictated that expensive leases were signed and for long periods.

The way in which we consume entertainment has changed dramatically over the last 5 years (Permira bid over £800 million for the business in 2008). I myself use SKY+ to record TV series to watch at a more convenient time while I download films directly via Apple TV. I download and play the occasional game on my smart-phone and stream music via Spotify. I still buy CDs, I love browsing and physically selecting products but not in the same quantity that I did in the past (having children hasn’t helped to be honest). The market has also changed significantly. The music industry is continuing to move towards singles rather than album releases while Hollywood is not producing blockbuster films in the same quantity that they did prior to the recession.

When I visit an HMV store I get the sense that they have lost touch with who their core customers are and could be by trying to appeal to everyone. They desperately needed to radically overhaul the product offering. They have made some inroads into the technology market but this is a relatively low margin arena and is not enough to sustain stores of their size (neither big enough nor small enough). The appetite to pursue this further has not been there and this has been driven by a Management team with either limited vision or who are constrained by the PLC ownership model. Had HMV been owned by a rich benefactor I genuinely believe the brand was salvageable. I don’t think there is a place for a specialist CD/DVD retailer for all the reasons stated but there is a place for a retailer that celebrates popular culture. A combination of fashion, technology and yes, some quirkily packaged entertainment products. Had some brave decision been made earlier HMV might not be in the position it is today.

The truth is that HMV has suffered a long and agonising death, by a thousand cuts. I can’t think of another retail market that has faced the same set of challenges and in such a short space of time. I sincerely hope that someone with a passion for the brand, and some spare cash, comes forward to save what is a truly iconic institution. Just as I was finishing this blog I received the following email from a contact that I suspect sums up what many feel about this sad news:

“It really is – I’ve just been reminiscing with my boss – things like; the first tape/LP we ever bought, all the presents we bought and were given from HMV, the cool posters i used to spend hours leafing through. Of all the casualties of the current retail market, this has hit me the hardest.”

On a final note, a by-product of HMV and the overall physical entertainment market’s demise will be an increase in costs elsewhere. Expect your broadband cost to continue to rise (if you can only download your music you are a captive customer) and your satellite TV package costs to continue to rise…

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By

Jez Styles, 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

Having recently written a blog about the retail recruitment market I am now turning my attention to the hospitality sector to see whether the market is as tough for candidates looking to find new roles.

As in the retail sector, I think most candidates are often pleasantly surprised when they first come onto the market to find another position, by the volume of roles that appear to be out available matching their skills and experience.  However as has been highlighted in the recent Hospitality Employment Index statistics provided by the Caterer.com and People 1st, the competition for these roles is higher than ever.

I am afraid to say that on the surface the statistics do not make encouraging reading. The number of overall vacancies is down some 8% compared to last year and in some categories such as management roles in the restaurant sector they are down a massive 45%.  Unfortunately the competition for roles has also increased with the number of applications only falling by 2% during the same period.

However, as always we should try and put some perspective on these headline grabbing figures.  What the statistics show is that the current job volumes are some 30% higher than in 2009. To some extent during the recession we have seen a much stronger focus on retention and development in the sector. This may be an additional factor in explaining the underlying statistics. As always these statistics only show part of the picture and just reflect the volume (and level) of roles posted on the job board.

Looking at the performance of some of the key players in the market, despite the miserable weather and conflicting expectations brought by the Olympics, the market has held up well.  Looking at recent announcements, Greene King reported a like-for-like sales increase of 5.1%, Mitchells and Butler LFL of 3% and The Restaurant Group LFL of 3.25%. As always there are winners and losers however with continued growth in some areas of the market the need for high calibre individuals remains strong.

As we all know, the hospitality sector is all about people and being able to inspire, lead and motivate teams to deliver great product and great service. Many businesses continue to invest in retaining and recruiting the best people to drive and maintain that competitive edge. Being focused on recruiting middle and senior appointments we have seen strong demand for individuals since the end of the summer and are watching with interest to see how the market unfolds over the coming months.

As has been the case over the last couple of years it continues to be difficult for candidates to secure positions in different sectors, so my advice to candidates is to look at businesses where your skills and experience will be most transferable.  The expectations of clients is rightly very high as they look to drive their business by hiring candidates with experience and a strong track record of success.

Without a shadow of doubt for the vast majority of middle and senior management candidates the market out there remains tough. However, whilst the job board figures are certainly negative, as we come out of recession, the market will inevitably pick up.

Russell Adams

LinkedIn

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

Why HMV must survive

Do you remember the first cold remedy you ever bought?

Do you remember the first pencil case you ever bought?

Do you remember the first blouse you ever bought?

No?

I bet you can remember the first album you ever bought…

In the 1990s, Boots, WH Smith and M&S all endured tough times and, although customers questioned why they had lost direction, there was a general feeling amongst the British public that we needed to rally around our legacy retailers. Why is it then, that in recent years we have turned our backs on the staples of our High Street? Why has history and culture become so much less important than price or convenience? Why do we value the physical product so much less than the digital? As consumers have we lost sight of what really matters?

I began my own career with HMV in 1998. I started as a Christmas temp, like many people, lacking direction in my career and somewhat unsure what to do next. The next ten years were incredibly rewarding and exciting. I struggle to articulate to my peers who have worked for other retailers just what an exciting a place it was to work. It wasn’t just exciting for the people who worked for HMV, there was a palpable sense of excitement for our customers too.

As a Manager at HMV you really lived a great, albeit challenging, life. Summer conferences in Marbella, Dublin, Aviemore; Winter conferences at the Grand in Brighton (one that stands out was themed around a Scarface Anniversary re-release – outstanding work Trish!). There we witnessed performances from bands that genuinely needed the support from HMV to break their first album. We genuinely felt that we had an obligation to support new acts and to bring them to the public’s attention. It wasn’t retail, it was ROCK & ROLL! (to quote an ex MD, Dave Pride, at a new store opening). The conferences were also educational. We learnt about the company’s history and were reminded of our obligation to honour both the heritage and the future (Brian McLaughlin, Ex CEO, was a great story teller). You felt part of something bigger than your own experience. The business was full of egos, like any company, however somehow the sum never became greater than the whole.

We were at the forefront of youth culture however at the same time, we knew how to merchandise and sell the latest Midsomer Murders DVD. Every Monday there was a new set of singles, albums, films and games (which had a Friday release date, just to complicate things). Saturday, as for most retailers, was the most thrilling day of the week, not just because of the sales lift but also because that was the day we received the deliveries of new releases. The stock room would be buzzing with anticipation as you discovered what the album of your favourite artist actually looked and felt like. Each shop in HMV was responsible for buying approximately 70% of the stock you would see in store, entirely aiming at you, the local and regular customer. This brought challenges and risks. For instance, if an album sold well on Monday, was this because it had a very loyal fan base or did it have the legs to keep selling. Would it get any airplay? Would customers tell their friends that they had found a gem? Should you order more? This wasn’t a tin of beans, it wouldn’t eventually sell through – it was a genuine gamble.

HMV connected with customers in a way that most retailers can only dream…and yet….somehow it has all gone wrong.

Why? Technology has changed, and well, let’s be honest, HMV hasn’t. Consumer shopping habits have changed too. The customer base at HMV is very different. It feels like HMV has been caught between two very different customer profiles (sweeping statement alert!); one that is older and still keen on physical product and, well the kids who don’t really get HMV anymore.

I look at HMV now and don’t really understand what they stand for, and to be honest I am not sure they really know either. Do they cater for an ageing and dwindling customer base or do they completely reposition, fundamentally changing their product base to get the kids re-engaged? Is technology (ie. headphones and accessories) the answer? Not really. HMV has to reposition as a specialist, but of what?

Trevor Moore, the new CEO, has an enormous task. He has to choose what type of customer he wants as he cannot appeal to everyone in the manner of the HMV of old. Jamie Zuppinger of Barracuda Search, wrote an article in Retail Week earlier in the year, in which he commented that most CEOs he had spoken to felt their biggest mistake after joining a failing business was not cutting deep enough and fast enough. Unfortunately I feel that this is exactly what Trevor Moore needs to do. In all probability, the only way HMV can survive is to reduce the store portfolio to circa 100 stores and to truly specialise. The margins have became so tight that to support this the supplier base will probably need to increase their equity stake much like other specialist retailers.

And we, as consumers, have a responsibility too. There was an outcry when Woollies went under. Are you prepared to see another integral part of our high street culture disappear? Yes, you can buy an album cheaper on Amazon, but is it as fulfilling as browsing a display in HMV? We have to place a greater value on our high street.

Trevor Moore, needs time. As consumers, we have an obligation to buy it for him.

Jez Styles

www.admore-recruitment.co.uk

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Earlier in the year I wrote about the lost generation of middle managers in retail whom face limited progression opportunities as a result of the recession. Since that article the redundancies have continued to flow thick and fast with all sorts of rumours about which retailer is going to collapse next. One might think that with all the doom and gloom in the market that the opportunities to develop your career are few and far between. However…

If you are ambitious and do want to avoid this scenario you have two very simple options, either ensure you are promoted in your current business or move to another organisation where there is genuine opportunity for advancement.

How to progress your career within your current business:

  • Does your Line manager, Head of Talent, HRBP know you have ambitions to progress? Sounds simple but don’t assume so. Be explicit about your career targets. Clearly you will need to judge when and how to position this conversation but it really is the starting point.
  • Are you getting the results? You know in your heart of hearts if you really are delivering, if you are not you need to address this.
  • So, you are doing well…does everyone else know that? It is all well and good if you run the most profitable part of the business but if the board / functional heads don’t know this you will have few sponsors when the next round of restructuring starts. I have met a lot of candidates with relatively modest results but who were fantastic self-publicists and as a result they were promoted!
  • Seek feedback. The old 360 appraisal can be painful but it will do two things; firstly it will highlight what you need to do to improve and secondly it says a lot about your focus on self-development. This is a competency that is being increasingly measured in assessment of stretch potential.
  • Work harder, it sounds old fashioned but to be blunt it makes an enormous difference to your senior stakeholders. Admittedly there has been a societal push towards work/life balance (and rightly so) but once again those who do more…achieve more.
  • Get involved in project work. If you are Head office based get in to stores, if you are operations based get in to Head Office. A key determinant of progression is breadth of experience. Your Operations Directors, Managing Directors and other board members will have done this at some point in their career. This will also expose you to other stakeholders and will give you a chance to self-publicise!
  • Socialise. Get to know the senior team on a more informal basis. Once again, the people whom are liked by the board tend to get the better jobs.
  • Identify sponsors, people whom have a vested interest in you doing well and will fight your corner / put a good word in when necessary. It’s an ego boost for the other party and you will also get good career advice.

You need to look elsewhere…what do you do?

  • Put together a ‘campaign’ plan with short, medium and long term objectives.
  • Identify what you want to do next. It is worth sense checking with your contacts that this is realistic. A major salary increase and a promotion are highly unlikely.
  • Call your contacts in the recruitment firms. While we recruitment consultants are often grouped together with estate agents, double glazing salesmen and those chaps whom knock on your door to kindly inform you they have just tarmacked your drive and you owe them 200 quid… However, we do on occasion add real value. There is an art to working your relationship with consultants – in short, what you put in you will get back. Behave transactionally or with contempt and expect a mirrored response. Similarly, if you want to get the best out of a consultant, treat him like a human being and they will do the same.
  • Speak to your sponsors. If you have built a few up throughout your career they should be able to put you in touch with their contacts, hopefully with a recommendation.
  • Call old bosses. If you did a good job for them before they will be inclined to give you another go.
  • Fire up your Linkedin profile. It is beginning to position itself as a job board these days and most internal and external recruiters use it as a secondary database. While you are there delete any old profiles on the job boards – they are very much aimed at the junior end of the market. Bear in mind that this is your shop window and as every Operations Director will tell you, customers won’t go in and buy if it isn’t well cared for.
  • Don’t be afraid to invest in some external support and advice this may be as simple as a CV rewrite or career/life coaching. A good quality CV rewrite will cost between £300-£500…roughly the same amount as a new set of wheels for your car…
  • Finally, do your research before accepting an offer. A large number of candidates have found their CVs becoming very patchy over the course of the recession as they have hopped from one business to another. The one factor that generally underpins any mistake in a career move is a lack of due diligence. Would you buy a house without having it surveyed?

Good luck…

Jez Styles

There has been a lot of publicity recently about a lost generation of graduates and school leavers who cannot find work.  Equally the steady rise in redundancies that has continued unabated throughout and beyond the recession has affected large numbers of people. Those of you who are in work will naturally feel relieved that you are in employment and ‘safe.’

At the start of the recession the vast majority of recruiters and businesses used the ‘sell’ of job security as a means to both retain and attract talent. The vast majority of candidates placed this at the top of their wish list for their next job. Of course this was going all the way back to 2008 and for some as early as 2007 when Retailers starting cutting costs with dark clouds gathering in the US over the sub-prime crash.

Large numbers of retailers have taken the opportunity to soak up this surplus of talent. Between 2009 and continuing through 2011 it became common place for Retail Directors to take Regional Manager positions, Regional Managers to take Area Manager positions and Area Managers to take Store Manager positions. This downwards pressure on the job market has continued and there are plenty of businesses out there whom are still capitalising on the opportunity.

Another product of the recession has been Operational restructuring. Store closures aside this tends to predominantly affect Area Managers through to Retail Director level. Large numbers of retailers have quite simply removed a layer of management, typically at Regional level. As a result a large number of chains now have a model where an area manager will lead a group of up to 40+ stores and report directly to the Retail Director. It’s a big jump for a Store Manager to make and an even more unlikely move for an Area Manager to move to the one and only operational role above them.

So to recap, there are less layers of management, less positions and increasing numbers of senior operators whom are settling for a role that is a step below where they have operated previously. That safety that candidates have been flocking to in recent years is beginning to look like stasis or to be more dramatic a career trap.  How long are you willing to sit it out? The reality is, depending on whether you are a glass half empty/full type of person, we are likely to see recession / negligible growth for at least another 3-6 years. Given that lots of people have been in lockdown mode for the best part of 3 years, the risk averse among you will potentially not be looking for a promotion or external career advancement for up to 9 (YES NINE) years. Guess what, when you start looking for a job at that point, your drive and ambition will be challenged and to be realistic you will probably struggle to make another move upwards.

Are you feeling quite so comfortable with being safe now? Interestingly there have been more of those elusive ‘passive’ candidates coming on to the market at the start of 2012. The Executive’s candidate board that is Linkedin is testament to the change in mind-set. Lots of candidates see no issue with loading their profile on to Linkedin with the hope that they will be ‘found’. I suspect that a large number of these people will take a more aggressive approach to their career advancement in 2012. Will those that do not be left behind?

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