The fashion business is the most people-dependent and talent-rich sector I’ve ever covered as a journalist - something I think all of you out there should be extremely proud of.
Take away the talent behind any leading fashion business and that business will doubtless collapse. But this presents us with a challenge as well: how do you find and retain the best people for your UK business? This is hard enough when times are good but when times are as tough as they are right now, and the retail scene has opened up globally to such an extent, how do you balance the increasing demands you place on your people with their need for job satisfaction?
Our story this week raises a very interesting question for all fashion business bosses out there to consider - are they treating their best people well enough? Because you can bet your house on the fact that if they’re not paying the going rate, or offering a good work-life balance, then someone else will. And in the newly global talent pool, that better offer might just come from beyond these shores. In effect, the skills
and training innate in the UK fashion industry, the knowledge, the work ethic and the passion our people have, has made us a target for those looking to poach the best people. And often these international players are offering higher salaries, better working environments and a more flexible approach to work-life balance - not to mention a nicer climate! It’s tempting. Even for the most loyal employee.
It’s also interesting that while we all curse the recession, it has bred this super-skilled talent pool. You have to be at the top of your game to successfully trade in the UK market, which is arguably the most competitive and toughest in the world. It is also one of the oldest and one of the most exciting, and that gives it a place in the hearts of the people who work in it generation after generation.
To work in fashion is an aspiration for a huge number of UK school leavers and you can’t buy that kind of passion - or can you? If UK companies fail to appreciate the threat and don’t review wages and working practices, that talent might leave these shores for good, and likewise for the UK to have any chance of attracting talent from abroad we will need to offer competitive packages.
This issue is especially pertinent at the moment when our talent pool is at its most potent. The UK market is leading the globe now in terms of expertise in IT systems, logistics, supply chain, online sales and mobile and as such it is the go-to place for talent in these areas - talent we are unlikely to be able to replace from outside the UK, where these areas are less advanced.
We produce the best, and we need to invest in them.