“Cream of the crop” fashion candidates are being squeezed out of London and forced to find roles overseas as uncertainty across the sector continues to bite, headhunters have told Drapers.
“Some candidates are staying put and riding the retail storm, but many are receptive to overseas jobs,” said James Hyde, director of FH Executive Search.
“The UK is knackered and there aren’t a lot of places to go as businesses are shutting everywhere. People don’t want to go into volatile and broken jobs.
“The market is more buoyant internationally than in the UK. The UK has lots of talent, though, so we’ve had four very-well known people in the retail industry apply for a CEO job in Hong Kong. There are several people over in Amsterdam and the Middle East too.”
Victoria Nightingale, partner and head of UK operations at Barracuda Search, agreed: “Junior and senior candidates do seem more open to relocating or staying away from home during the week. A lot still want to commute to home so Europe and the east coast of the US are being flagged by candidates in terms of international preferences.
“We have a team in Hong Kong working across the Asia-Pacific market, who are finding European – including British – talent is open to a move over there, where the market is more buoyant and dynamic.”
She added that more people working in the UK are looking for opportunities outside of the capital: “If you look at the new pureplays in fashion, a lot are based in Manchester. These businesses are growing quickly and people in London are now more open to working for these dynamic retailers rather than the high street stalwarts.”
Ed Fella, director and founder of recruiter Fella & Jones, explained that candidates are relocating from London because there are “no opportunities” for them there: “The same directors are moving from company to company, such as Debenhams to House of Fraser, and it means really good talent doesn’t get a look in.
“London is also expensive, blue-chip companies are being more frugal in their salaries, and Brexit is encouraging people to look at both their business and personal lives. We’re seeing an uptake of UK candidates moving to Europe, particularly Amsterdam and Berlin, where they are open to foreign skill-sets.”
Helen Porter, co-founder and managing partner at Mode Search, said that London talent is moving to positions in the Midlands, Paris, Milan and Germany: “Lots of people are considering moving away from London now.
“In our company, we have seen people in senior roles based in luxury brand headquarters consider roles elsewhere in other regions and internationally, too. It’s worrying for the future of fashion retail in the UK.”
“The recruitment market for fashion retail has never been so dire. In 15 years of recruiting I’ve never seen a bloodbath quite like it,” said Mary Anderson-Ford, managing director of Aquaretail. “So many businesses have made redundancies, and that – coupled with the people who have lost their jobs with retailers going into administration – means there are a lot of very talented people at home just waiting for the right job to come up.
“Sadly, as the time passes, and with the Brexit delay and continuing economic uncertainty, these jobseekers are having to make some massive compromises on what they are looking for.
“They are having to take cuts to pay and seniority, and work in locations they would previously have dismissed – whether a different pocket of the UK, or another country entirely.”