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. 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.
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.”
 Indeed Hiring insights – Retail category in Ireland