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Demand grows for UK fashion professionals in South Africa

Harveen Gill, managing director of retail recruitment agency HGA Group, on the state-of-play in the South African retail market and recruitment for fashion professionals.

On my recent visit to South Africa (November 2012), the economic indicators demonstrate that retail is still growing here.  Retail sales slipped to 5.9% in September from 6.4% in August.  Although the miners strike and volatility had a massive impact on sales and distribution as lorry drivers also held strikes, consumer spending has held up as credit spend is growing at a strong pace, despite lower income growth and the rising cost of electricity and fuel. 

Retail firm The Foschini Group has just announced a 12.6% increase in turnover for the six months to September and also an undertaking to open 56 stores in South Africa. Fashion retailer Truworths announced a 15.9% increase for the last 18 week trading period, while Spanish chain Zara is already trading in this market and Arcadia’s Topshop and Topman fascias open at the end of November.

There is a positivity that bodes well for growth within this region and of course Sub Saharan Africa.

Retail in South Africa is mature and there is fierce competition as retailers try and develop market share. There is also competition to attract the most innovative talent. Talent from mature markets is held in high regard, as there is a view that these developed skills can develop the indigenous population and also build USP capacity at a faster pace.  There are some skills that are especially sought after.  We find as in most global areas, skills that affect product directly are in high demand – so design, buying and merchandising and planning appear at the top of the list, with skills such as marketing and ecommerce also becoming sought after.

There are of course visa issues, with bans occurring after certain quotas are reached. Senior executives are more likely to have their work visas accepted, whilst more junior candidates may find entry more difficult, unless of course you are a returning South Africa.

Overall this region continues to grow and I would definitely recommend retail professionals to consider it if you are looking to develop your career internationally.    

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