Retail staff

Ireland’s Retail Sector on the Verge of Severe Staffing Crisis

The trajectory of job postings for the retail sector is on a consistent upward trend, having more than doubled from 1,578 in February 2021 to 4,258 in February 2022[1]. Excel Recruitment, the leading retail recruitment specialists in Ireland, is warning that the retail sector could be the next industry to face a serious and damaging staffing crisis, something akin to that currently being suffered in the hospitality sector. Excel Recruitment is advising retail employers throughout the country about the necessary steps they can take to mitigate this shortage and make their industry a more attractive prospect for workers.

Aislinn Lea, Director of Fashion and Non-Food at Excel Recruitment commented,

“The industry data paints a stark picture – between 2019 and 2021, the number of retail job seekers per retail job vacancy had been increasing year on year. However, since then it has dipped significantly and in February 2022 there were 39 job seekers per job, down from 78 job seekers per job in February 2021. What’s more, the number of employers with active retail job vacancies has now nearly tripled in the 12 months to February 2022 when it stood at 1,360 employers – up from 488 employers in February 2021[1].

Over the course of the pandemic, many people were out of work and/or on reduced hours – they had more time on their hands to really look at their careers, their lives, and what they want from both. As a result, we’ve seen thousands of workers change careers, upskill in their current industry, and/or just make the decision to strive for a better work-life balance.

That dynamic, combined with the fact that the industry has also missed out on approximately two years of new candidate intakes – due to workers either leaving the sector during Covid because of lockdowns and working restrictions, or indeed leaving the country – has left supply as a major issue, which continues to deteriorate.”

Ms. Lea commented,

“Retailers are facing an uphill battle, but we have identified a number of actions that employers can consider to allow them to attract the talent needed.

Many employers we speak with are disheartened because they say significantly boosting salaries to attract and retain workers is just not feasible now. However, money is not the only solution to the problem. Daily, I tell people that there are more ways to build the team you want and need in your business than by basing it on money alone.

Obviously, wages must be attractive to some degree – people need to be able to maintain a good standard of living from the remuneration they receive in the sector and salaries need to be competitive. But where we are seeing the real changes is in benefits, employer flexibility, and better working conditions.”

Addressing Employee Benefits

Excel Recruitment has outlined several key considerations for incentivising roles within the retail sector.

Ms. Lea commented,

“Working hours are a huge consideration for people. While working from home simply does not work in most cases; as an employer, you could explore how you might rejig the working week. Can you offer some weekend and evening flexibility in the structure? Candidates are looking for more flexibility so that they can plan their home lives accordingly. The introduction of every second weekend on/off is proving to be very popular amongst some of our retail partners.

Annual leave is another area where improvements can be made. We appreciate that the statutory entitlement is 20 days plus bank holidays. However, keeping in tune with trends regarding work-life balance and the fact that retail requires more flexibility, the need to offer more than 20 days is a must in retail management. We’re seeing a shift to 23-25 days’ holidays.”

The recruitment experts note that while pension schemes have long been an important benefit to employees, they are not necessarily often provided by employers and are an area where more businesses could review their policy and introduce attractive proposals for employees.

Ms. Lea commented,

“In addition, we are finding that incentives and benefits that focus on employee wellbeing, such as Employee Assistance Programmes are increasingly attractive – where staff are supported with free counselling services for work-related or personal problems.

Bonus schemes have become a benefit that not many managers take seriously. To work well, management needs to ensure bonuses are based on performance and sales but it is also extremely important to be more specific in outlining bonus details and conditions.

Softer incentives including referral schemes for new staff and/or loyalty bonuses, brand perks and discounts, and more personalised offerings such as uniform allowances, the Bike to Work scheme, birthdays off, gym memberships, and lunch allowances are becoming more common. Employer reward schemes and in-house awards that celebrate conscientious staff members also create engagement and can help increase staff motivation and morale.

While there are many pathways open to employers regarding more diverse packages for employee benefits, Excel Recruitment says that employers must be active in advertising these to candidates.

Ms. Lea concluded,

“Creating these incentives is one element, but the next important step is to include these benefits and perks in any company vacancies or job advertisements so that potential employees can consider them alongside the job role. Candidates are looking for more, but it’s not just about money – the focus is increasingly about enjoying one’s career while having time to enjoy your life outside of work too.”

[1] Indeed Hiring insights – Retail category in Ireland

You can contact Aislinn for more information at aislinn@excelrecruitment.com. Please click here to search for all of our live retail roles.

Brexit Benefits for the Irish Hospitality Industry

And how Excel Recruitment are insuring we’re ahead of the curve..

By Excel Recruitment’s General Manager Shane Mclave

Brexit and its many possibilities and uncertainties has been one of the main topics of conversation for Irish businesses’ since the ‘Leave’ campaign’s win last June. While it’s still unclear what exactly Brexit will look like, Excel Recruitment have already begun taking steps to capitalise on its potential.

Brexit is undoubtedly going to have a massive effect on Ireland. It’s impact is already being felt on our tourism and hospitality trade with visitor numbers from the UK falling this year on the back of weak sterling. However, Britain’s exit may well turn out to be a good thing with Tourism Ireland getting creative and pursuing new markets in North America, Australia and Asia. This hard work is already paying off with visitor numbers from North America up 23%, followed by Australia, up 16%.

In recruitment terms, Ireland has the potential to become a seriously attractive location for both employers and employees. Huge media attention has been given to the chaos Brexit will cause the British hospitality industry with both the British Hospitality Association and Pret a Manger earlier this year, saying it would take 10 years to replace EU hospitality staff after Brexit. (The Guardian, March 17) The number of nurses from other EU countries applying to work in English hospitals has fallen by 96% since the referendum. (The Guardian, March 17) At the risk of being unneighbourly, Britain’s loss could stand to be Ireland’s gain. Young EU nationals eager to travel and gain experience in an English speaking country may now look to Ireland, where the future concerning visas (the cost of which alone will act as a deterrent), working rights and travel are clear cut, to expand their horizons. Not knowing what Brexit will look like may also encourage top Irish talent to stay at home and build their careers here.

The same need for consistency also exists within international businesses based in the U.K. Many keen to maintain close ties with Europe and avoid the red tape and uncertainty of whatever Brexit will be, may begin to look to Ireland as a place to set up operations. By setting up camp in Ireland, multi-national companies’ gain an English speaking workforce with a similar outlook, culture, laws and way of doing things while still benefiting from everything that comes with working within the EU. Ireland is 15 times smaller than Britain so it goes without saying gaining even a fraction of this FDI would make a massive difference.

Indeed, many corporations have already made the move. At least a dozen London city banks have already begun the process of moving some of their operations to Dublin with JP Morgan building a 22-storey tower on the south of the river Liffey and adding to their 500 employees here. (The Irish Times, July 17)This can only be a good thing for the Irish economy with more jobs, more people and more opportunities.

Excel Recruitment have continued to be proactive and stay ahead of the curve. We have actively begun recruiting within the UK and beyond. In recent months, we have placed a number of quality candidates from the UK in roles with our clients and we have seen our database of UK candidates increase dramatically. These candidates come from all sections and levels of the hospitality industry and are all looking to make a move into Ireland and begin working with our top-class clients.