2015: A review of fashion retail recruitment

With Black Friday behind us, we thought it a good time to reflect on the year before we find ourselves trading in January 2016. 
There have been some huge changes within the sector not just from a recruitment perspective but across the retail and fashion market as a whole.
This year we have seen more strategic workforce planning by our clients resulting in us being involved in more recruitment campaigns throughout 2015 than ever before. 
Retail and fashion specifically have seen salaries stabilise and clients have had to be more competitive by restructuring their benefits packages. With the Government putting more emphasis on pension schemes, this is at the forefront of candidates minds when they’re looking for a new job. A strong pension scheme alongside a good bonus structure, healthcare package and all the other little incentives that can be offered have made a real difference to attracting the best quality candidates. We are often told that it isn’t all about salary, and alongside the opportunity itself the benefits package plays a big part in whether a business can make a candidate feel valued.
In addition to this, another interesting development in 2015 has been the cultural shift to the need for strong employer branding. Candidates are now more interested than ever in who the company is, what they stand for and how they can make their staff feel a part of the brand and its success. A recent article in Business of Fashion highlighted that “Career development, transparency, social and environmental responsibilities feature in many of the most prominent fashion employers messaging”. This has been epitomised in this year’s Annual Drapers’ Awards creation of a category for outstanding CSR – which was won by F+F, with New Look achieving a highly commended mention. Social media is awash with companies posting employee’s reasons for working at their business and you might be surprised to see how often CSR features as a primary motivator. It should now be at the forefront of any employer’s mind when looking to promote their brand when they’re planning to expand their talent.  
Given the importance of employer branding, we are also acutely aware of more and more companies taking recruitment back in-house with the help of social media such as LinkedIn. However, this hasn’t meant that the recruitment agency has become redundant. In fact, it has meant that it is more important than ever for a company to select its agencies based upon their understanding of the company’s needs and what they can offer candidates as their next employer. As recruitment specialists, we have been instrumental in supporting some of the biggest retail and fashion employers to bring their recruitment back in-house, and partner with them to create a positive and desirable brand to work for. This has meant that in-house recruiters and agencies have had to come together to ensure that the candidate has a clear message on who the business is that they’re going to work for, from the first briefing call through to the on boarding process. 
In 2015, every conversation we have had with CEOs of retail and fashion businesses have stressed the importance of quality rather than quantity of talent as a critical way to successfully grow in 2016 and stay ahead of the competition. However, the reality is, given the UK is the hub of top retail and fashion talent, we are being engaged as a global recruiter to export talent internationally. In light of this, UK businesses are facing a crisis of the much needed top talent not being there to attract. 
To support the much-needed growth in the retail and fashion industry in 2016, companies need to develop a strong employer brand, continue with forward workforce planning and partner with agencies for candidate attraction and retention advice. The movement of top talent abroad over the last 10 years has put the international market in its strongest position yet, with companies such as Inditex and H&M up skilling its workforce to become the best traders in the market, and quickly gaining momentum and market share internationally. Perhaps one solution to this is to consider the possibility that with so much top talent being exported internationally, it is time to consider opening the doors to the outstanding talent that can be found abroad?
This article was written by Katie Watson - Managing Consultant at Michael Page Fashion. Katie specialises in the recruitment of buying and merchandising roles in the UK and internationally.
Katie Watson - Managing Consultant - Michael Page Fashion 
T: +44 (0)1932 264 058
Ellie Harlow - Consultant - Michael Page Fashion
T: +44 (0)20 7269 2480
For more advice contact your local specialist Michael Page Fashion recruitment team or follow us on LinkedIn.