Recruiters say key buying and merchandising talent is being lured by higher salaries and change of lifestyle.
British retailers could be facing a “brain drain” as rival companies overseas tempt top buying and merchandising talent out of the UK.
Domestic businesses are failing to keep up with the packages offered by firms overseas, with a standard salary increase of 22% for those who take the leap, compared with a rise of around 10% at best for those who change jobs in the UK, according to recruitment firm Michael Page.
As well as an inflated salary, recruiters said senior buyers and merchandisers were being lured out of the country by promises of bonuses and better packages, which typically included private health care and school fees.
Candidates often perceive they will have a better quality of life away from the grind of London - and the British weather. Europe, Australia and Asia are all seen as hotspots, although emerging markets such as Nigeria and South Africa are also picking up steam.
Michael Page associate director Nicola Wensley said she had seen a “dramatic gear shift” in international appointments in the past two years.
Between 2011 and 2012, there has been a 140% uplift, and the business is forecasting a 300% rise between 2012 and 2013 based on appointments so far this year.
As a result gaps are already emerging at key levels within fashion retailing and within two to three years businesses could have difficulties filling roles with experienced staff, Wensley said.
“It’s a real challenge,” she added. “There is a lot of talent leaving the UK market and there is a real issue developing in terms of British businesses retaining staff.”
Bloom Retail director Mary Anderson-Ford, who also recruits for the business’s international arm Bloom World, said: “UK talent is always considered the best, especially B&Ms [buyers and merchandisers], who are particularly attractive in less sophisticated markets like Australia or Europe.”
She described UK packages as “quite poor” in comparison with international offers, but insisted “only a limited amount of people are looking away”.
“There is enough talent in the UK to stop it becoming a risk to us, but UK retailers’ packages are not in line with international standards and that should be looked at,” she said.
Sarah Lim, head of retail and consumer practice at executive search firm CTPartners, said a similar pattern was developing for chief executives, a “notable” number of whom were being lured abroad, particularly to turn around underperforming businesses.
“Retailing is less sophisticated in other parts of the world, so they look to the UK to bring talent in because we’re seen as one of the most competitive landscapes in the world,” she said. “We’re a net exporter right now.”