With the fall of BHS and a cloud of controversy surrounding the retail sector, you’d be forgiven for looking at it through a lens of doom and gloom.

But contrary to recent headlines, our latest research shows that retailers are among the most sought-after employers by UK professionals.

Of the top 25 companies that UK professionals engage with most on LinkedIn, an impressive 12 are retailers. John Lewis tops the list, with other retailers such as Harrods, Asos and Burberry following closely behind. And if there is one thing that these companies all have in common, it is an outstanding employer brand that continues to attract the best talent.

“Companies such as John Lewis are a shining example of how to successfully engage employees and turn this into competitive advantage”

Dan Dackombe

But this popularity shouldn’t be taken for granted. Our data also reveals that a number of other sectors are waking up to retail talent and are starting to draw talent from the sector. We already know that UK retail professionals are incredibly mobile – 8% changed companies in the past year, double the UK average. But not all are staying in the industry; as of April 2016, three of the top sectors that retail companies have lost talent to are apparel and fashion, info tech and services, and financial services.

It’s vital therefore that retailers take urgent steps to enhance and protect their employer brand if they are to compete for the best candidates. And we know it makes good business sense: companies such as John Lewis are a shining example of how to successfully engage employees and turn this into competitive advantage.

What workers want

We asked more than 1,000 workers in the UK what they look for in an employer, to pinpoint exactly what retailers should offer in order to attract and retain top talent – and this is what they said:

78% of UK workers say they would not tolerate a bad culture, even if it meant working for the top company in their industry. The feeling is stronger among women than men (82% versus 74%).

“Despite the appeal of an attractive culture and benefits, salary is still the biggest consideration for employees in the UK”

Dan Dackombe

Flexible and remote working are the most important non-financial perks for 44% of professionals. In fact, just under one in four UK professionals (24%) would even trade a higher salary for more flexibility.

But despite the appeal of an attractive culture and benefits, salary is still the biggest consideration for employees in the UK, with nearly half (49%) rating it as an important factor when weighing up career opportunities.

So while the future may be bright, now is not the time for retailers to sit back and rest on their laurels. There is no doubt that a strong employer brand supports talent attraction, and cultivating one will have the positive impact needed not just to keep individual companies healthy, but the retail sector as a whole.

  • Dan Dackombe is EMEA director at LinkedIn Talent Solutions