Fashion retailers face an urgent struggle to hire digital experts as the industry moves at a “breakneck” speed, a new report has warned.

The sector will need to hire up to 60,000 new staff in the next five years to keep pace with the digital revolution, according to the joint study by the Fashion Retail Academy (FRA) and consultants OC&C.

Roles involving analytics, digital content creation and knowledge of IT systems will be vital as brands look to engage with customers through digital channels, the report says.

Digital experts needed

Digital experts are needed by fashion retailers

Fashion retailers face an urgent struggle to hire digital experts as the industry moves at a “breakneck” speed

However, 57% of retailers are struggling to find the right people for the roles, the study found.

The report adds to the woes of fashion retailers, many of whom are finding trading tough in the face of unpredictable weather patterns, post-Brexit uncertainty and rising costs.

“The retailers’ hiring struggle is very real,” said OC&C partner and the report’s co-author Michael Jary.

“The industry is changing at a breakneck speed, but the pool of skilled candidates ready to step up to the challenge simply isn’t there.”

He added: “Many retailers have already recognised current skills gaps within their organisation, with three quarters of retailers providing in-house training for experienced staff and management to plug these gaps.”

Increasing an online social presence

The report also found UK retailers are expecting to spend 22% of their overall marketing budget on social media over the next five years – compared to an average 9% now.

More than a quarter of retailers in the UK believe social media will significantly change their business model by 2020, the report found.

As a result the FRA is launching a new drive to help students to pursue careers in fashion retail, backed by its careers campaign ‘Retail Reimagined’. It is also looking to upskill people already working in the industry.

The FRA’s principal Lee Lucas said: “We cannot singlehandedly haul the fashion retail industry into the digital age.

“That’s why we founded an industry working group to drive this work with fashion retail experts, OC&C, the government, our professional networks and prospects.

”We very much hope that our blueprint will help our vibrant industry fast forward to the future.”