What are the keys to a successful career in retail? While customer service is essential and commercial awareness is a must, experts say candidates are increasingly expected to live and breathe the brand.
There has been a flurry of activity in Australia’s retail industry in recent years with big international retailers such as H&M and Uniqlo entering the market. Trish McLean, Group CEO of recruitment firm RWR group, says that while their early presence had a significant impact on job demand, much of this has settled. However, there are still great opportunities to be found.
The latest data from SEEK Employment Trends shows that the average advertised salary for the Retail and Consumer Products industry is $58,340. While there was a marginal 1% decline in job ads for the industry year-on-year in September, McLean is seeing growing demand within smaller brands as consumers look beyond big box retailers. “Big international brands have been rolling out around the country in recent years and this equated to a lot of jobs,” she explains. “We are now seeing growth in smaller retailers and this will begin to have an impact.”
- Retail assistants in demand. Accent Group, owner of retailer Platypus Shoes and home to brands such as Timberland, Sketchers and Vans, is one local retailer experiencing such growth. Accent Group’s Recruitment Manager Australia and New Zealand, Michelle Morgan, says business is booming. “We always see a lift when we head into Christmas time but we also have a big expansion plan,” she explains. “At the store level, we are needing to attract great talent as we continue to grow.”
Morgan explains that Platypus Shoes has more than 70 stores across Australia and New Zealand with more stores on the way and the company is gearing up to relaunch its e-commerce site. “We need to ensure that as we expand we find the right people to work with us, both in the support office and at a store level, so retail assistants are really in demand right now.”
SEEK job ads for retail assistants grew by 8% year-on-year for the three month period from July to September, while job ads for management – department/assistant roles grew by 1%. “There was a big demand for managers this time last year and, as they will have been in the role for only 12 months, we don’t expect to see much movement in that category just yet,” explains McLean.
- A small decline for retail buyers. Job ads for buying roles were down by 8% year-on-year for the three months from July to September and planning roles also slipped by 12% during this time. Jennifer Stuart, Agency Manager of Frontline Executive Retail Recruitment, explains that as many retailers in Australia own multiple retail brands, there is often opportunities for buyers and planners to move within the one umbrella company. “This may be why there is a small decline in job ads for these roles,” she says.
Morgan adds that there is always room for movement within the Accent Group. “We have a ‘Future Leaders List’ and anyone within our brands who receives great feedback and wants to grow in our business are placed on the list,” she explains. “When a vacancy comes up, they are the first people that we go to in order to give them the opportunity to interview. We don't just promote within Platypus alone. You can go from Platypus to Vans, Sketchers, to Timberland, and of course, you can definitely go from store to support centre, and support centre to store as well.”
- Do you fit the brand? While customer service is a critical skill in retail, companies are increasingly expecting candidates to show why they are a good fit for their brand. “You need to be able to explain that you understand not just the customer but also the whole brand,” says McLean. “Employers are looking for brand fit. If you’re applying to a job in fashion, are you going to wear those clothes? If it’s hardware, are you into DIY? If it’s technology, can you sync your phone to your TV? Brand fit is now right up there with customer service and experience.”
At Platypus Shoes, candidates with a positive outlook are always in demand. “We don't necessarily look for people that come from retail backgrounds,” says Morgan. “We're really open minded. We know that we can train the skill set, although it’s always great to see that there are runs already on the board. If you have a 'make it happen' attitude, you're open minded and you love creating genuine and unique experiences for our customers when they come into our stores, they're the real key attributes and behaviours that we look for in our team.”
With smaller retailers expanding across the country and international brands consolidating their presence in the market, retail is proving to be an ever-evolving industry for candidates. “I think we’re in for busier times ahead,” says McLean.