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Retailers reshape their workforces in response to market

Fashion multiples are shifting their workforce strategies, and reducing the number of roles, to manage growing costs, fluctuating currency rates and improvements in technology. 

The number of full-time jobs in retail fell by 3.3% in the second quarter of 2017 compared with the same period last year, the British Retail Consortium (BRC) has reported.

All three months during the quarter recorded a decline in full-time employment and 15% of respondents said they intend to decrease employment levels in the coming quarter – no respondents planned this in the second quarter of 2016.

Helen dickinson

Helen Dickinson

BRC chief executive Helen Dickinson said reductions were “particularly acute” among non-food retailers, where the “difficult” market environment has had an impact: “There are further reductions to come. The transformation of the industry is still in progress and this quarter’s data show that more retailers are intending to reduce their workforce in the coming months than at the same point last year.”

Retailers have told Drapers they are changing their workforce structures in line with advances in technology and to mitigate rising costs.

“To offset the significant impact of the sterling, we are looking at costs of the business and a significant part of that is staff,” said  Dune Group executive chairman Daniel Rubin.

He added: “There will be a reduction in retail jobs, where most will replace staff with technology where possible. However, businesses should not fall into the trap of looking solely at staff costs – they also need to look at making product more attractive and shopping a more compelling experience.”

Meanwhile, Superdry founder Julian Dunkerton agreed the number of part-time roles will drop, but said the same may not apply to full-time roles: “Overall, as a group we are increasing our staff numbers, but as efficiencies in retail increases and technology becomes more sophisticated, part-time hours will disappear.

“However, I don’t think this will necessarily be the case for full-time hours, and while jobs are shifting within the group, it is doing so by marginal amounts. We are constantly increasing our designer, ecommerce and logistics teams.”

Lynette Deutsch, founder and chief executive at recruitment consultancy Endaba Group, said roles in stores, area managers and merchandising positions have been “particularly affected”.

She also highlighted that more retailers are looking to “combine” roles, such as merchandising with distribution and logistics, or marketing with ecommerce.


Readers' comments (2)

  • darren hoggett

    Certainly for Indies the days of the stand alone salesperson have gone. Any employee must be computer literate, tech and social media savvy. If you don't have all these skills then you are toast in retail.

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  • Removing headcount in-store should be approached with caution. Analysts predict customer service is a key differentiator and turning stores into self service outlets is not the answer. Though it's exactly what Amazon hope for.

    Yes review layouts and locations (technology means you can now operate with smaller footprints). Yes invest in technology that improves in-store service through the people deployed there.

    Or else find yourself protecting margins at the cost of rapidly shrinking turnover because your customers have gone where service is much better.

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