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Fashion talent taking pay cuts in market squeeze

Senior candidates applying for roles across the fashion industry are having to accept substantial pay cuts as businesses employ more junior staff to cut costs ahead of Brexit, headhunters have told Drapers.

“Businesses are replacing senior roles at a much more junior level and on a lower salary,” said Shelley Pinto, managing director of TRP Recruitment. “Therefore, candidates at a mid-senior level are having to take lower salaries when applying for new roles.

“Those that were perhaps on a salary between £70,000 to £80,000, for example, are having to accept around £50,000 instead.”

Ed Fella, director and founder of recruiter Fella & Jones, agreed: “Companies are being much more frugal in what they’re paying staff. There has definitely been a decrease in pay packages, even across growing functions such as ecommerce and digital roles.

“Companies are employing junior board members and staff to lower costs.”

Mary Anderson-Ford, managing director of Aquaretail, said: “There are still a lot of redundancies taking place at the moment, so we have some very talented candidates simply stuck at home waiting for jobs to come up. However, sadly they know that in recruitment nothing really moves from mid-July until mid-September. Then, because of Brexit on Halloween, we won’t see much movement until November.

“Therefore, candidates are willing to take huge pay cuts and drops in level just to be in employment. But if I were to place them in the lower roles they’re requesting, in many cases they would then be reporting into somebody who is their junior. It creates a political mess internally, which causes conflict within the business.”

Victoria Nightingale, director at Barracuda Search, said: “It’s hit and miss across different areas of retail. Ultimately, fashion is struggling, so the knock-on effect is that companies are downsizing: some of that is Brexit-related.

“Companies are making redundancies to cost cut or taking on younger people who will accept a lower pay grade. So senior talent jumping ship are having to accept pay cuts.”

Helen Porter, co-founder and managing partner at Mode Search, told Drapers that the market is still buoyant and there are lots of opportunities for recruitment. However, some companies are being cautious amid Brexit uncertainty.

“There are fewer store-based and senior operational roles available, and definitely a shortage of roles for directors and heads of retail,” she said. “Therefore, talent looking for new mid-to-senior roles are having to take lower salaries, as there just aren’t the roles out there for them at the moment.”

Many retailers are also going through large organisational structures to cut costs.

“High streets are quiet, but companies are busy changing the skills of their leadership team – for example, by changing retail directors to multichannel directors,” said Richard Hollister, founder and managing director of Retail Executives. “CEOs are doing all in their power to bring down costs – understanding the customer better, using data, right product at the right price, more routes to market, and so on, and ensuring they have the right team in place to make this happen and to make happen quickly.”

Nicola Wensley, partner at Page Executive, agreed: “Brexit uncertainty and the general turbulence in the fashion and retail market in the UK has been impacting candidate and client confidence. While there are a lot of people open to making a career move, there is huge caution and risk aversion to making a move.

“We are still busy, but rather than the main high street retailers, we have been recruiting for growing companies with a strong focus on sustainability and retailers going through large organisational changes.”


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