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Skills deficit creates two-tier jobs market

A two-tier jobs market is developing in fashion retail, leading to businesses fighting over an  increasingly small pool of skilled candidates.

More than three times as many fashion buyers and merchandisers have applied for new jobs since the start of the year compared with the same period in 2012 – but the total number making it through to the next stage has fallen 7%.

Recruitment agency Michael Page’s annual salary survey suggests the market is operating on “two streams”, according to its regional director for buying and merchandising Graham Lucas.

Two tiers have developed whereby some parts of the industry – both in sectors such as value or specialist retailers or in roles requiring ecommerce and international skills – do not have enough candidates to meet demand.

On the flipside, certain roles, particularly within buying, are flooded with applicants.

“There are lots of people looking for work but on the whole that mass of people doesn’t marry up neatly with what’s available,” said Lucas. “They aren’t matching firms’ list of criteria. “The industry has become so much more adaptive to the ‘new normal’ state of play, but the skills base is still catching up,” he added. “Everyone is fighting for the same talent – and it’s a typically pretty small pool.”

Senior merchandisers are also in more demand than buyers – a fact reflected in salary changes over the past year.

For the first time, top merchandisers now take home the same basic salary as their buying counterparts.

Regional map of salaries

Regional map of salaries

Merchandising directors now earn between £110,000 and £220,000 – a £40,000 increase at the top end.

Buying directors’ salaries increased by half that amount over the year.

Heads of buying and heads of merchandise are similarly level pegging at £80,000 to £125,000,while senior buyers or merchandisers now earn between £50,000 and £65,000.

Lucas said the rise in merchandisers’ pay was also due to a lack of good candidates, and retailers’ growing investment in that part of the business, while buyers’ salaries remained flat.

More than half of respondents, or 53%, said they expected salaries to rise and expected a bonus – a drop on last year, when 58.3% expected a pay rise. However, this remains “significantly” higher than the UK average.

Businesses fighting over a small pool of candidates are in the spotlight as a result of these changing dynamics, with individuals conducting far more due diligence than ever before, the survey also showed.

Readers' comments (3)

  • Up the merchandisers!

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  • Businesses need to broaden their vision and look for candidates with transferable skills.

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  • If 53% of people are expecting a pay rise, that means 47% are expecting a freeze or decline - doesn't sound particularly positive to me

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