With market conditions remaining tough for the foreseeable future, what trends can we expect in retail recruitment over the coming months?

The retail jobs merry-go-round has already swung back into life, with Humphrey Singer leaving Dixons Carphone for the CFO role at M&S, and Debenhams hiring former Tesco executive Richard Jones to head up its global sourcing operation.

But I want to use my first article of 2018 to make some predictions about the kind of trends I expect to see in recruitment this year.

Christmas trading suggests that non-food businesses have had a tough quarter, and although the grocery trade has held up well, much of the growth can be attributed to price inflation.

CEOs I speak to say that if you’re a predominantly UK-based retailer, you’re in a challenging place right now with consumers keeping close control of their spending and the spectre of Brexit looming larger every day.

Although we’re not in a recessionary period, people in the know believe there is a very real danger that we will talk ourselves into one because of the unique set of challenges the country faces.

Impact on jobs

What does this mean for the jobs market? In one sense it means that business is buoyant. Usually December is a quiet month, but we were receiving new enquiries right up until Christmas weekend.

It seems the golden quarter no longer applies just to retailers but also to businesses involved in retail executive search too.

Our forecast is for the current quarter to be just as busy with retailers keen to know what talent is available.

Companies that have performed below expectations over Christmas are looking to freshen things up, while those that have met or exceeded expectations are looking to bring in new talent to help kick-start the next financial year.

Businesses are acting quickly to address any weaknesses because they know that in the current environment it can take up to nine months to get new people on board.

Head-office budgets are stretched and employers are making people work right up until the end of their notice periods. We’re also carrying out a more thorough search process than ever before since clients simply can’t afford to get recruitment decisions wrong.

“We’re also seeing some seriously talented candidates unable to find a job, which makes it even more important for those in post to perform well”

At Anthony Gregg, we are strengthening our leadership assessment division for key hires, undertaking psychometric testing as standard, and putting together diverse lists of fully referenced candidates to meet client expectations.

We’re also seeing a growth in interim appointments among retailers that want individuals who are immediately available and can hit the ground running.

We expect roles in ecommerce, multichannel, supply chain and trading to continue to form the bulk of our assignments, reflecting the need for retail businesses to constantly evolve and adapt to changing market conditions.

Director-level candidates and those one level below the board are in high demand; more so than candidates at mid-senior management level.

And when big appointments are made, businesses expect a bounce in performance, in much the same way that football clubs expect an instant upturn in results following the appointment of a new manager.

We’re also seeing some seriously talented candidates unable to find a job, which makes it even more important for those in post to perform well. It’s no longer sufficient to do an okay job, businesses need their top people to excel.

So in summary, 2018 is set to be another challenging year, but a rewarding one for retailers that can attract and retain the best talent, and for candidates who can add real value to their employers.

Major moves this month

NameJob rolePrevious company / company exitingCompany joiningJob role
Kenyatte Nelson Group Marketing Director Shop Direct Missguided Chief Customer Officer
Vic Self Customer Director Dixons Carphone M&S Digital Director of Clothing, Home and Food
Simon Coble UK Managing Director The Body Shop John Lewis Partnership Strategy Director
Craig Fletcher Senior Vice President of Esports and Founder of its recently offloaded Multiplay acquisition Game    
Andy Dopson Head of Belong Division and Gaming Zones Internal promotion Game Head of Esports and Belong
Nick Wilkinson Chief Executive Evans Cycles Dunelm Chief Executive
Steven Cook   Holt Renfrew, Canada Debenhams  Fashion and Home Managing Director 
Richard Cristofoli Marketing Director Internal promotion Debenhams Managing Director of Beauty, Beauty Services and Marketing
Paula Dumont Lopez Head of Basics and Espirit’s Head of Womenswear Ex-Zara Primark Trading Director

Content provided by Anthony Gregg Partnership.

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You can call Tony Gregg on 01564 796830 or email him at tony@anthonygregg.com.

Founded in 2003 and located in Henley-in-Arden and London, The Anthony Gregg Partnership specialises in the consumer search market space.