SEEK Employment Trends: spotlight on retail and consumer products

The introduction of e-commerce signaled a major disruption for bricks-and-mortar retailers. Online behemoths, such as Amazon and eBay, which arrived on the scene in the mid ‘90s, were among the first to shake things up. While many retailers struggled to adapt their model to digital environments, smart retailers today are not just going online – they are going omni-channel.

Despite a small dip in consumer sentiment in March 2016, the latest data from SEEK Employment Trends shows a 5% year-on-year increase in SEEK job ads for the retail and consumer products sector, while candidate availability is high and stable.

The greatest increase in March 2016 to SEEK job ads in the retail and consumer products sector was seen in the ACT, followed by Victoria, while South Australia and Western Australia both experienced declines. The average advertised salary for the sector was $57,939.

Trish McLean, group CEO of Retailworld Resourcing, says recruitment demand is solid across the sector. Although candidate availability remains high, she says many clients are struggling to find candidates. “I think it’s because everyone is chasing sharper talent,” she explains.

Retail goes omni-channel

The omni-channel approach to retail involves a variety of approaches in a customer's shopping experience. These include traditional retail stores, plus mobile stores, online sites and mobile apps. McLean notes that some online retailers are even opening bricks-and-mortar stores to complete their own omni-channel goals.

“There’s been a lot of talk about e-commerce having an impact on the retail space but we are seeing a lot of online stores opening traditional shops now,” she says. “A good example is Tigermist, a worldwide internet fashion brand that has just decided on its first store in Melbourne. They are going down the omni-channel path, believing they need a physical presence.”

Another Australian retailer to beef up its omni-channel approach is Platypus, the successful sneaker store with 150 retail outlets across Australia and New Zealand. Melisa Molini, special projects manager at Accent Group, which owns the Platypus brand, says the company treats its e-commerce site like any other store and sees further potential for growth. “We’re planning to launch a new site in September and that will be significant,” she says.

A boost for merchandising

The number of SEEK job ads for merchandisers in the retail sector were up by 17% year-on-year in March 2016. Molini explains that merchandising planners sit within the Platypus buying department and that the company has experienced significant growth in this area. “We need merchandising planners to look at the strategic side of the business rather than just the buying side,” she says. “They look at how stock is working in store and make decisions about where it goes if it’s not working. They also plan for new stock and play an analytical role in the business.”

McLean says merchandising can be a challenging role to recruit. “If you don’t have your merchandise right, you’re in trouble as a retailer,” she says.

Planning roles also experienced a year-on-year increase in SEEK job ads in March 2016, growing by 5%. “Planners sit between buying and finance,” explains McLean. “They look at ranges, they control margins and they are across budgets. It’s become a really crucial role because if you plan right, you’ll buy right and you’ll sell the right amount at a high margin, and then you’ll reduce the margin to clear out the stock at the end.”

The face of retail

Another crucial role in the retail sector is retail assistants, and job ads on SEEK for this sub-classification increased by 6% year-on-year for these positions. Molini says Platypus will soon be on the look out for more retail staff due to significant store expansion. “Most of our growth is due to store expansion and we have lots of succession planning, which also leaves a gap for more recruits. Retail assistants is definitely an area that has grown for us and will continue to grow.”

As international stores increase their footprint across Australia, the demand for retail assistants is likely to continue. This is also the case for the sub-classification management – department/assistant, which saw a year-on-year increase in SEEK job ads of 12%.

“Even though there’s some talk of doom and gloom in the economy and some chains have closed, there are still other stores that are expanding and the niche retail market is growing,” says McLean. “International brands such as H&M are expanding across the country and this is all generating more demand.”

Job ads slip for buyers

While most classifications in the retail sector saw increases in job ads, buying roles saw a decline of 19% compared to the same time last year. McLean says a contributing factor may be that more employers looking overseas to find the right candidates. “There is a bit of an international search going on for these roles.”

McLean adds that retailers many need to polish up their employment proposition to attract the best candidates. “Employers need to think about where their brand fits in the market and why candidates should come across to their brand, especially if their brand is not the number one in its space.”

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