Will consumer sentiment lead to another recruitment rollercoaster?

It’s my first day back in the office today and I’m feeling super positive about the year ahead. That’s pretty good considering that 2016 was one hell of a rollercoaster for us recruiters. Arguably, that’s a pretty odd statement as my business and (anecdotally!) my competitors, had a cracking year. So why was it a rollercoaster? Our clients, specifically in retail and hospitality, are hyper sensitive to consumer sentiment. I’m sure you have seen the surveys. Here is GfK’s survey - you’ll notice there are a few troughs! The graph above tells us that consumer confidence went from pretty positive at the back end of 2015 to Armageddon in July. There was a recovery before a further dip in November. Indeed, here’s a screen print from the BBC website today (Wednesday 04/01/17): It makes for pretty depressing reading. To top it off, footfall declined over the New Year period. Given that we know that Article 50 will be invoked in March and that Trump will be inaugurated later this month we can be confident that another rollercoaster year is ahead of us. As you would expect, if our clients lose confidence they cut costs and, as we all know, the quickest cost to cut is people related i.e. less recruitment. Or at least, that was the traditional approach. Over the last two years we have seen a bit more resilience in the jobs market. Our client base is a little less sensitive to macro change, and while remaining cost conscious, less susceptible to knee jerk reactions. Additionally, not all sectors of retail or indeed other industries are impacted by poor consumer sentiment. Value retail is likely to see a resurgence in 2017 despite ever increasing competition. Arguably, Tesco & Morrisons will reap the benefits of the strategic changes they have instigated over the last two years. Here at AdMore we have invested in other sectors too, such as apprenticeships recruitment and that sector is forecasted to grow by up to 50% due to the impending levy. So you see, whilst I believe that 2017 is going to be another rollercoaster ride for consumer sentiment and that some areas of recruitment are likely to mirror that, there are plenty of reasons to be optimistic. That said, if you are a candidate, a hiring manager or a recruiter; we will all once again need to be very, very, very resilient!
 

How to determine whether your salary is competitive in the market.

During the recession many people have experienced very little or no growth in salary and earnings as companies have looked to carefully control their costs. As many a politician has told us, rises in the cost of living has led a fall in overall living standards over the last few years. But with an improving economy and a rapidly improving job market many people may be looking to improve their earnings as they review their career. At times we all feel we are not paid enough for the job that we do, or assume that there will be others that are being paid more but how do you know if you are being paid the going rate and what is your real worth in the market?

I should start by saying that there is no easy answer to this question. Partly because roles are always slightly different so comparing them can be very difficult. In its most basic form, the salary you receive is what the company perceives is acceptable. In many cases this may bear no relationship to national averages, industry averages, or with what anyone else in your company is being paid. In reality what you are paid will largely depend on the company you’re working for and how it approaches salary structures. It may be their philosophy is to ensure they keep their best talent or perhaps to pay the lowest they can get away with!

So how can you try and determine your market worth?

Compare the market

One of the more accurate ways to establish your worth and the market rate is by analysing some market data. For instance, this could take the form of looking for job adverts for similar roles to identify the salaries that are advertised. As you can appreciate this not an exact science as the salaries offered may well differ from those being advertised and the exact scope and responsibilities of the roles may differ. However this tactic should certainly give you a good feel. The other method of comparing the market is to look at salary surveys from your sector – these are widely available, often compiled by specialist recruiters and can be identified by a quick search on the internet. However, these are often very generic and may not detail the specific role that you perform. Combining this research will certainly give you the best chance of understanding where you sit in the market.

Company culture

As mentioned above, your company’s attitude to compensation and reward is likely to be a significant factor in whether you are paid the going rate for the role you are performing. You are likely to have a feel for this from how it manages and communicates its reward structure. Your company is also likely to have a reputation in the market and whether that is for great culture, great pay, great benefits or perhaps quite the opposite. Either way you are likely to have a gut feel about where you stand.

In it for the long term

As part of your consideration it is also important to look at what the future might hold for your company and your future potential earnings. When companies are doing well and are optimistic about the future they tend to pay more than when times are tough. If your company has a meritocratic culture where success is rewarded then it is likely that if you perform you will enjoy considerable salary growth over time. Even if you feel in the short term you are not being fairly rewarded it is important you take the medium and long term into consideration. It really might not be worth moving roles now for an extra 2or 3 thousand pounds when the prospects of career development are strong. Indeed promotion is the clearly the best way to increase your earnings.

It’s all about the package

The most important element to considering your market worth is to look beyond your basic salary to the overall package that you receive. In my experience benefits packages can vary enormously from company to company and it is really important that the other elements of your remuneration are taken into consideration. Other factors such as pension contribution, bonus schemes, share options etc. can have a considerable impact on your overall earnings and need to be factored in. It is often worth breaking down each element and placing on a spreadsheet to establish the overall value of your package.

Talk to the experts

Specialist Recruiters and headhunters have a unique insight into the market. They are arguably better qualified than most to provide you with an accurate picture of how well you are remunerated for the role that you do in comparison to other people in the market. They are talking to candidates day in day out and will have a feel for where salaries are going. It is worth using relationships you have to try and establish where you are financially positioned in the market.

Know the market

Individuals in your sector are likely to be able to add to the market knowledge you will have gathered. People find it awkward to ask friends, co-workers or former co-workers, but it's often an effective way to find out what the average salaries are within your specialist field. Just be careful, particularly internally, if you start asking everyone in your team or department about earnings. Make sure you ask them for a range for a particular job and not what they are currently earning. That way you are likely to get a more accurate feel.

What if you feel you are underpaid

If you discover through research that you are not being paid anything close to the market rate for the role you are performing you have several choices. One is to keep quiet and look for a new job where you will almost certainly be offered a higher salary. You can keep quiet and keep the job you have, hoping your employer will magically loosen the purse strings. Or, of course you can choose to talk to your employer about what you now know. I plan to cover this subject in a future blog but clearly any such conversation needs to be well thought through and handled in the right way. As the market picks up and candidates have more opportunities in the market it is inevitable that both internal salaries will need to increase and that the market rate for roles will start to edge up. Market wise we aren’t quite at the point yet but as the recovery takes hold it is certainly on its way.

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Will 2014 see a significant improvement in the Retail and Hospitality jobs market?

By Russell Adams,AdMore Recruitment

2013 has certainly been a fascinating year from a recruitment perspective and I thought it would be interesting to look back at the Retail and Hospitality jobs market and see what the market will have to offer next year. One thing is clear the year is ending very differently to how it began!

Unfortunately 2013 started like much like 2012 ended with yet another major retailer going into administration. This time it was the turn of Jessops, another business affected by structural changes to the high street, suffering the same fate as Comet and Game before it. It turned out to be a very bad week for Retail with the news that HMV was also going into administration. This and a series of other administrations affected recruitment as a large volume of candidates hit the market at the same time. Fortunately both businesses continue to trade albeit on a much smaller scale than previously. These challenges continued, with Blockbuster and Barratt’s amongst others suffering later in the year.

However during the course of 2013 there has been a steady improvement in the economy which has had a positive impact on confidence in the market. This has been particularly telling since the summer where the data has grown in strength and the signs are suggesting that the recovery is now taking hold. But how is this impacting retail? Interestingly, I think for many that confidence is coming from what people have seen outside their business as opposed to necessarily what they are seeing within their own business. Talking to clients and candidates in the lead up to Christmas, the positivity in the press is not necessarily being felt by retailers as consumers continue to face tangible pressure from the overall cost of living.

Ultimately recruitment is driven by either the creation of new roles or more predominantly through the movement of candidates between roles. Naturally the more people move the more vacancies are created and the market as a whole improves. An increase in confidence has driven a significant improvement in activity in the second half of this year. Secondly, the fast moving and changing nature of retail and hospitality will always drive recruitment activity. As confidence has grown and conditions improve more businesses are investing to keep themselves relevant in the market.

Below are some interesting developments over the course of 2013 that have helped drive recruitment activity. For some this has been through new store openings programmes, while for others it may be restructuring to ensure the business is in the best possible shape to benefit from the improving conditions.

A review of 2013

In the first half of the year the food sector was rocked by the horsemeat scandal. As always given the competitive nature of the market there have been significant developments for a number of businesses. Morrison’s signing a deal with Ocado was major news complimenting their expansion into the convenience sector where they now have over 50 stores. It has also been a busy year for Tesco as they continue their turnaround plan. During 2013 they diversified, acquiring the Giraffe business and investing in other retail concepts. Sainsbury’s has continued to outperform its peers and invest heavily in its successful convenience business and the Phone shop. The discounters have also had a good year particularly Aldi who have ramped up their store opening programme. Waitrose has also set it sights high with plans to triple the size of the business over the next decade increasing the store portfolio beyond the 300 stores it has currently. M & S Simply food has also announced plans to open an additional 150 stores over the next 3 years. Martin McColl the convenience operator is looking at a potential stock market float to fund further expansion.

In the specialist sector, The Garden Centre Group has had a busy year under new owners Terra Firma. A recent acquisition of an independent garden centre group in addition to hiring a number of senior leaders, sets the business up for its next phase of growth. The weather and improving house market provided a much needed boost to the DIY sector which saw B & Q restructure their in-store management teams and performance across the key players starting to improve.

The mobile phones and technology sector also saw a number of changes this year. Phones 4 U continued its expansion programme and O2 went through a major restructure to ensure it could capitalise on its strong market position. Vodafone has also just announced it plans to increase its store portfolio by 250 stores adding to the 380 stores it currently operates.

Despite an improving market the Discounters continue to go from strength to strength with both 99p stores and Poundland announcing aggressive expansion plans over the next few years. The latter is looking at a potential floatation in order to raise £200-£300m to help fund significant expansion.

The Primark juggernaut continues at pace as the business performed strongly in 2013 and they continue to expand. However, fellow discounter Republic was a casualty in 2013 going into administration in February. Wilkinson’s have also been in the press as they restructure the business following changes to their board.

Ikea is also continuing its expansion programme with stores planned in Reading, Exeter and Sheffield.

In Hospitality the world of coffee in the UK market continues to grow with expansion from most of the major operators. Starbucks has been backing its franchise business and continues to expand and Costa has further developed its core business and Express. It looks like 2014 could be the year the competition really hots up as newcomer Harris + Hoole start a rapid expansion programme both on the High Street and also within Tesco stores.

The burger market has also been in the headlines this year with a number of new entrants arriving in the UK. Shake Shack and Five Guys hope to take the market by storm competing against Byron which will continue to expand under its new owners. Within the restaurant sector there continues to be growth as brands such as Nando’s and Wagamama open additional sites. Whilst the year has been challenging, operators have been performing strongly in the lead up to Christmas.

Clearly these are just a few of the positive and the odd negative changes happening in the market but as can be seen there is certainly a lot going on in 2014.

So what will 2014 bring?

Recruitment wise the year has certainly finished with momentum. As I mentioned above the positivity in the press in not necessarily being felt by retailers particularly on the high street. With just a few days left to go it will be interesting to see who the winners and losers are and the impact this has on their plans for next year. I think irrespective of how strong Christmas turns out to be, many people who have sat tight over the last couple of years will look at 2014 as the year to make a move.

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It’s time for Employers to look past multiple job moves on CVs

By Jez Styles, AdMore Recruitment

We have been very positive about the market recently and with good reason, a record month for AdMore in October and what is shaping up to be a record quarter. I have personally been busier than at any period during my time in recruitment. Processes are moving faster and candidates are getting offers – a few lucky guys are getting multiple offers (click here for advice on how to deal with that happy problem). We have seen the ‘slack’ in the market reducing at an incredible rate. Earlier in the year there were still a lot of redundant candidates all vying for the same small pool of vacancies, a trend that had started in 2008. For those of you who are still out of work and looking for a new position, keep positive, the market is turning! That said there are still a couple of geographical cold spots – the North East quickly springs to mind.

So, with the slack in the market reducing, the pool of available candidates declining and vacancies increasing, employers are finding they are not quite in the buyers market they once were. As a by-product we have seen a noticeable increase in salaries in the last twelve months. A typical Area Manager salary of £45k a couple of years ago has shifted to £55k or more in order to secure the strongest candidates in the market…and in a few cases well north of £60k. We haven’t seen a marked increase in salaries at Divisional level or ‘Head of’ but there are definitely more vacancies.

I met a couple of clients last week that were quite honest about what they were seeing; fewer candidates and as a result, less qualified or capable indivduals. So, our conversation progressed on to a pool of candidates that the recession has created that a large number of employers have been actively avoiding - candidates with multiple job moves in a short space of time. If you have changed job three, four or even more times since 2008 you are not alone! I accept that this is not a phenomenon that has occurred recently but I do believe that the recession has exacerbated the problem for many people. One of the clients I met last week indicated that perhaps it was time to meet some of these guys and give them a chance and you know what, I agree.

Recessions breed panic. Back in September 2008 we were told that we were heading for the ‘Great Depression.’ Batten down the hatches it was going to be a bumpy ride, we were told, and it has been

Companies affected in the last five years have included Comet, JJB Sports, Clinton Cards, Game, Borders, Barratts, Alexon, T J Hughes, Jane Norman, Habitat, Focus DIY, Floors-2-Go, the Officers Club, Oddbins, Ethel Austin, Faith Shoes, Adams Childrenswear, Thirst Quench, Stylo, Mosaic, Principles, Sofa Workshop, Allied Carpets, Viyella, Dewhursts, Woolworths, MFI, and Zavvi/Virgin Megastore.

(Source: http://www.retailresearch.org/whosegonebust.php )

That is a lot of people. This doesn’t even include all the employees that were made redundant due to company restructuring.

So, what do you do if the media is telling you that there is going to be a depression, everyone is going bust and your bank has indicated that they are not likely to be very flexible about missed mortgage payments?

You take the job that is offered to you.

And you are grateful.

However; you took a pay-cut, you compromised your values around company culture, you increased your daily commute from 45 minutes to 90 minutes, you took a job one level (maybe two) below your previous role, you believed the promises of progression, you didn’t credit-check the company for financial stability, you didn’t research the company to check the previous hiring patterns.

So you moved, and you moved again. Sometimes repeating the same mistake, sometimes making a new one.

Employers don’t like this. It suggests that candidates haven’t done their research or compromised their values. It suggests they can’t stick in a job or perhaps they didn’t cut the mustard. It suggests that they might not be the perfect candidate.

I placed a candidate last week with a company that did look beyond the 4 moves in 4 years. The candidate had been made redundant twice, had been mis-sold on progression once and had joined a business that looks lovely from a consumer perspective but wasn’t exactly an ‘Employer of choice’ (click here for advice of identifying an employer of choice). He had made mistakes but he had needed to provide for his family and had made decisions that were rushed. A lot of employers took advantage of candidates like him and have churned a lot of people over the last few years with promises of stability, progressions and riches. He is a great guy and has finally landed a job with a great business that has offered him a position at the level he should have been at had the recession not happened (there is another blog to come about how the recession has damaged careers…and what to do about it).

Employers and recruiters are going need to look beyond multiple moves on CVs in 2014.

It is time to give people a second chance.

Click here to follow us on LinkedIn for interesting updates on Retail and the latest job vacancies

 

Retail job prospects – what the Retail Choice Retail Employment Survey says about the market.

By Russell Adams,AdMore Recruitment

The latest Retail Choice employment report certainly makes for some interesting reading. Before I give an overview of some of its key findings I thought it necessary to provide some further context. It is really important to highlight that the figures compiled reflect the period from January to June 2013.Whilst I have commented on the Retail Choice figures previously I think now more than ever there is a changing picture in the employment market. Whilst the report reflects our own experience in the first six months of the year, what is of particular interest is what has happened to employment activity in the last 2 months in terms of increasing activity - a point I will discuss later.

Probably not surprising to those that have been on the retail employment market in the last 6 months is that the overall number of vacancies posted declined by some 14% which was accompanied by an increase in the number of applications per job of 11%. To put this into perspective, these vacancy levels on Retail Choice are back to the recessionary levels seen in 2009. Some vacancy areas held up better than others but it is fair to say that during the first 6 months of 2013 it was harder securing a job in retail than the corresponding period of 2012. The reasons for the overall market decline have been well commented on in terms of recessionary effects and the changing economics of retail (with a move to e-commerce and m- commerce) which have lead to fewer physical stores needing less staff and management.

As a result of the above, the specialisms like e-commerce and marketing have seen increases in vacancy numbers but it is in operational retail roles where the decline has been more dramatic. Store Manager vacancies for example have fallen some 15% whilst application rates have increased by 19% showing just how competitive the market has been.

So where are we now? Well the last couple of months have seen a flurry of more positive data coming through from pretty much every angle. Retail data from the BRC has been very positive with July seeing the strongest sales increase since 2006 and improving footfall. In line with this is broader economic data, for example that GDP is improving whilst unemployment falls. There certainly appears to have been a boost to consumer confidence further underpinned by the critically important housing market. The weather has provided a further boost in comparison to the washout that we experienced last year.

I am hesitant to say the retail recruitment market has definitely turned for a number of reasons. Firstly, as a country and as individuals we are still in a position of considerable debt and so any recovery we experience is going to be relatively slow and long. Of course things will improve but it won’t be substantial and it certainly won’t be overnight. Secondly, there are many fundamental and structural changes taking place in retail that all have an impact on retail recruitment market.

As I have discussed before in my previous blog Stop the doom-mongering – the high street isn’t dead the market for high calibre Store Managers, Area Managers etc. will still exist but as the high street is reshaped we have to accept that there will be less of these roles and the competition for them will be high. At the same time naturally the demand for e-commerce related skills and other specialist areas is going to increase.

However, as my colleague recently wrote in his blog The positive signs which indicate the job market is finally picking up "For many candidates now feels like the right time to move. The market has been slow since 2009, for many people this is a long time to put your career on hold. This is starting to change and we are seeing a great deal of people coming to market, finally willing to take the risk of moving because their present employer can’t support their career aspirations." Even in a recovering market most job opportunities are driven by movement of people from role to role rather than the creation of new roles and therefore buoyancy is heavily determined by peoples’ willingness to move.

Signs of this movement are certainly encouraging and for all the reasons discussed above and from anecdotal information we have picked up the market certainly seems to be improving. I look forward to reading the next Retail Choice report early in the New Year which I hope will have a much more positive message.

N.B. Figures quoted based on the Retail Choice Retail Employment Survey H1, January- June 2013

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The essential behaviours for a successful job search in 2013: think like a recruiter

By Jez Styles, AdMore Recruitment- Specialists in Retail and Hospitality Recruitment, Search & Selection, Talent Management and Career Development.

  I have been reflecting over the weekend on some conversations I had with several candidates last week. In fact the conversations were similar to a lot I have had over the course of the recession and were unsurprisingly about the current state of the Retail job market. In short, the market is candidate rich and job poor. If you are out of work and looking for a new position, it is hard work and enormously frustrating. Every candidate has a slightly different story to tell about their own experience of the market, what they are doing to find a new position and how they are feeling about it. However the common themes that come up are:
  • People don’t call me back
  • My CV is disappearing into the ether and I’m not getting a response
  • I am struggling to get an interview
  • Processes are laboriously slow
  • There are lots of unplanned stages to the process
  • Jobs disappear and I get no feedback
  • Internal candidates keep popping up at the last minute
  • Employers seem unable to make a decision
  • There are a lot of speculative jobs
  • Recruiters (Agency and In-house) are only interested in a fee/result and have no empathy with my situation
Sound familiar? There was, however, one particular conversation that stood out last week. After a pretty lengthy chat with a rather demoralised candidate, the individual in question joked, "still it could be worse Jez, I could be a recruitment consultant like you and deal with this on a permanent basis." It was great humour coming from someone who has been through the mill recently and very insightful! In truth, active candidates that are on the market for more than a month get a very good taste of what it’s like to work in my profession. Recruitment is a roller-coaster - emotionally, spiritually, mentally and physically...ok, maybe not physically! So, how do you survive the job search rollercoaster and get off the ride successfully? Tweet this   Stay positive: Be resilient. Your head will drop, you will get down, you will get angry, frustrated, despondent, anxious, stressed and then probably numb. This is normal. This is what recruiters feel several times a day. However, just like the guys from FISH (click here), you have to ‘choose your attitude.’ You have to pick yourself up after a conversation with a disinterested recruiter, take the positives from a bad interview and, well, get on with it. This is the single most important thing to do because the moment negativity creeps in, you will convey this in every conversation and interview going forward. This may sound a bit clichéd but, after a couple of tough calls, I often think about scenes from Rocky (none of the films after Rocky 4 though!)   Set yourself targets, goals and objectives. You will have heard that many recruitment firms set their consultants a myriad of what may appear senseless targets such as the number of CVs they send, number of calls, cold calls, interviews arranged, new relationships established…it can go on…and on! There are many reasons why these targets exist but in truth it often boils down to the simple fact that recruitment is not an exact science and it can be pretty hard to assess whether you are making progress. Generally though, the more activity you put in, the more you get back. As a candidate you need to set yourself some daily and weekly targets. This could be the number of applications (quality not quantity is crucial though), calls with recruiters, interviews arranged or LinkedIn time. If you are a retailer you will be used to working with pace towards seemingly unachievable targets so don’t forget this skill! You will also be accustomed to working in a structured environment and you shouldn’t underestimate the impact that not working will have had on you. Putting a structure (click here for some advice) in place for your job search will do a lot to keep you sane, particularly when things are not progressing. Perhaps most importantly, celebrate the small wins!   Focus on what you really want. I had a conversation with an Operations Director last week who was particularly frustrated with the lack of options in the market. Indeed, he had resorted to meeting companies that he didn’t have an affinity with. Over the course of the conversation he commented that he needed to refocus on what was important to him and not to attend interviews for companies that he didn’t want to work for. Not everyone has this luxury of course but it is important to revisit the objectives that you set yourself at the start of your search. Are you meeting companies that you really want to work for? Talk to any decent recruiter and they will tell you that focus is crucial to business development. The moment a recruiter starts moving too far away from their core market they are dead in the water! As a candidate you need to adopt the same approach.   Develop a thick skin…fast! Recruiters receive bad news every day, they convey bad news every day and to complete the loop, will normally get a bad reaction from a frustrated candidate every day. You need to be able to absorb criticism and negative feedback. The truth is you will probably get a lot of this or, perhaps worse still, no feedback at all. It isn’t personal so don’t dwell on it. Also, and this may be obvious but if you don’t practice sport, now is the time to start. Not only will you fill your time productively but it is a good way of working out your frustrations in a constructive fashion. Darts down the pub doesn’t count though!   Get out of your comfort zone and work every angle possible. Any recruiter with an ounce of empathy will have to make difficult calls on a daily basis, they will have to sell to people that don’t want to buy and they will generally have to do things that take them out of their comfort zone. Fortunately this sense of discomfort does dissipate but for candidates there is a strong chance that you will have to do a lot of things that you do not enjoy doing. I have often spoken to candidates about how they should use the Social networks (click here) to build their profile and for many this is an uncomfortable process. Recruitment is often a war of attrition and you need to work every angle. I am sure that most of the above is very obvious and probably is easier said than done! If you are a Retailer in need of some support please don’t hesitate to get in touch.   Click here to Follow us on LinkedIn
 

What should your Recruitment Consultant really do for you?

By Russell Adams, AdMore Recruitment- Specialists in Retail and Hospitality Recruitment, Search & Selection, Talent Management and Career Development. In a market where organisations are increasing their proportion of direct hires, do you still need to be talking to recruiters and what are they actually doing for you?  Are they really adding any value and what are they doing that you couldn’t do yourself? Indeed with LinkedIn it is now easier than ever before to be found by organisations looking to hire. So are recruiters really adding any value? The answer to that question will definitely depend on who you are talking to. Sadly the industry is lightly regulated and with no formal qualifications it is very easy for poorly trained individuals to operate without much scrutiny or redress. As we are all aware, the market is still tight. With strong competition for most roles it is likely that you will need to engage the services of recruiters in order to try and access the best opportunities in the market.

So what should a good recruiter be doing for you?

Career Advice

A specialist recruiter should be able to give expert career advice and both challenge and assist you in your career goals and objectives. They should be highly knowledgeable in your field and very well connected.  Your recruiter should be a career partner and not just an agent that will place you in a role.

Recruiters can and should provide impartial career advice. When paid commission you need to appreciate that some may have a short term attitude and advise what is best for them and not for you as the candidate. However, the best recruiters will take a look term approach, appreciate that people will remember great advice and certainly never forget bad advice. Although in the short term they may lose out on a fee, longer term if they do the right thing then you are much more likely to engage them when you are looking to recruit. So look out for the signs that they are thinking long term.

Recruiters can if they are willing provide advice across a range of areas including advice on CV’s and Interviewing. They typically do not change for these services but do it as a way of adding more value to the candidates. Again they are likely to only provide in depth advice to those individuals who they have built a relationship with.

Job Search

In addition to some of the added value areas, fundamentally you want your recruiter to give you access to the best jobs in the market. So, do plenty of research and ask plenty of questions; what roles are they recruiting? Who are their key clients? Are they recruiting the types of roles you are interested in? The competition out there is fierce and through building a strong relationship with key recruiters in your sector you can try and ensure you gain access to these roles. A good recruiter should always call you back. In the current market, recruiters are incredibly busy, there are large number of candidates on the market chasing relatively fewer roles, however if you agree up front how to communicate and how frequently then you should be able to find a way that works for both parties.

 Process Management

A good recruiter should "coach" you through the recruitment process.  They should be using their in depth knowledge of the client and the individuals within it to guide and advise you on how to position yourself. They should be able to give you a strong insight into the culture and how you will fit.  The are also likely to get in depth feedback from the client after each stage so make sure they are sharing this information with you, so you can understand what you may need to do more or less of.  In fact a really good recruiter will always think long term. The better ones will coach you through a process even when they aren’t representing you but it is with a client they know. They will appreciate the long term benefits of doing this and the potential for the future.

 Offer Negotiation

Whilst there are a multitude of reasons for moving jobs, increasing your salary and benefits is often an important aspect.  Your recruiter should be instrumental in negotiating the right salary for you.  They should know the client well and will have a real feel for what the client may be willing to pay for someone with your skill set.  But make sure they are clear about your parameters because as much as you want to receive the best offer you also don’t want to put yourself in a situation where you are jeopardising a potential offer because the recruiter is demanding an unachievable  salary on your behalf. Also make sure you understand the full package. The benefits on offer may vary considerably from your current role and other roles you are considering and it is wise to look at the package as a whole. This will both influence your thoughts around basic salary but also may give you some leverage. Make sure you have this information early in the process. Like any negotiation the Recruiter will be aiming to find middle ground that is acceptable to both you and the client. It is ok to push but get a feel for where those boundaries lie.

Post Placement

A good recruiter won’t just place you and collect their fee, they will support you through your notice period and then though your induction into the business. They should provide you with an insight into the key players in the business you are joining, the culture and advice on how to integrate into the business. They should keep in touch and ensure that your induction runs smoothly, feeding back to the client where appropriate.

Conclusion 

Identifying and then building a relationship with the right recruiters will be critical if you are determined to make the best career move possible.

So how can you ensure your recruiter is doing all these things for you? Firstly please choose wisely. It is best to get recommendations and check their credentials.

Secondly to gain this level of advice, support and opportunity you need to invest time in building a relationship with the recruiter. This is easier said than done when working in a demanding and consuming role, so select a small number of well connected recruiters. For some additional advice on job hunting please read our recent blogs Looking for a job in 2013and How to avoid joining the wrong business.

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What do you do when your Retail Employer brand needs a refresh?

By Jez Styles, AdMore Recruitment- Specialists in Retail and Hospitality Recruitment, Search & Selection, Talent Management and Career Development. 

The most challenging, and by it’s very virtue interesting recruitment is often when you are resourcing for an employer whose brand does not quite match up with candidate perceptions. This can work two ways. A business may have a great employer brand but in truth be a difficult to place to work and develop a career. Conversely, there are many businesses that have a poor employer brand but are actually a great place to work. This mismatch often arises for two key reasons; firstly businesses change - a company may have had a high staff turnover previously but due to a change of CEO/HRD the underlying problems have been removed. The second reason is that many people confuse the customer brand with the employer brand. Yum! Brands (The parent company of KFC) are a great case in point. Potential employees think ‘fried chicken?’ but do not necessarily know the fantastic, employee- focused career opportunities they offer.

So, what can you do to educate candidates?

I was recently invited to a Retail networking event at Harrods. I’ll declare my hand early; I used to work in Harrods. It was an amazing experience and I can honestly say that it was the most theatrical and exciting place to ‘retail.’ However, it would seem that many candidates do not see Harrods as being an employer of choice. Following a period of change at Harrods (click here for more information) the Resourcing team have decided that now is the time to win hearts and minds.

The event was by invitation only (thanks to Linda Treen for the invitation!) and was aimed at attracting the top talent from retail that had thus far declined to attend a formal interview. It was typically Harrods - held in the Georgian restaurant where we were offered some beautifully crafted bacon rolls served with coffee and tea. The Retail Director, Paul Thomas, kicked off the day with introductions. This was perhaps the most powerful part of the day. There were 8 Harrods employees present; they came from Asda, Zara, Tesco and a collection of large and small retailers. Not the typical luxury backgrounds one might expect. They also had interesting career paths; it would seem that the path from Operations to the Support functions was well travelled. I guess that is the benefit of having the core of your business and its supporting Head office within a few miles of each other.

Following the introductions, a chap by the name of George Hammer talked about his own experience of setting up the Urban Retreat salon concession in Harrods. George is a classic entrepreneur and was quick to cut to the chase. Harrods is not an easy place to work quite simply because the standards and expectations are so high. As he put it, if you want to work somewhere spectacular you will have to take a risk. This is an interesting point, as this is absolutely about confidence. If you are confident in your ability then why would you not be successful? His most memorable quote being; "be exceptional, do not be average." George is clearly an extremely successful entrepreneur, he was the founder of Aveda amongst many other concerns, however he seemed to connect with the audience and many of the candidates present were clearly impressed by his honesty and his passion for Harrods.

Paul Thomas went on to talk about his own career path (Asda - Saturday boy to Store Manager, Sainsburys, Harrods Food Hall) and then fielded some questions. Paul was candid about his own decision to join Harrods with the admission of a wobble during his notice period prior to joining – had he made the right decision?  He was keen to tackle the negative perceptions within the room. A few candidates opened up and to Paul’s credit he dealt with these in a way that encouraged others to raise their own concerns.  He talked about the operational roles being narrower, yet deeper, than normal. He discussed perceptions around a more mature workforce and the ‘stuffy’ stereotypes. He noted that in the four years since they have started measuring employee engagement, they have seen a marked improvement in scores. This willingness to meet these questions head on certainly engaged the audience.

I noted with interest the number of candidates that were keen to formally register their interest in Harrods following some further informal conversations. I suspect that the Resourcing team were slightly surprised to get such an immediate result. Jenny Parry, Head of Resourcing, told me that she was primarily hoping to get the message out there that Harrods is evolving.  Judging by the reaction from the candidates attending, I think they certainly achieved this. It would be interesting to know what other retailers are doing to actively manage their employer brand in what is proving to be a period of intense change in the retail industry, comments below please!

By Jez Styles, AdMore Recruitment- Specialists in Retail and Hospitality Recruitment, Search & Selection, Talent Management and Career Development.

 

Stop the doom-mongering! The High Street isn’t dead!

Russell Adams - Director, AdMore Recruitment

Over the last few weeks much has been written and discussed about the future of Britain’s High Streets and retail generally. It has dominated the news channels, the papers and even Question Time.  Clearly the sad plight of Comet, Jessops and HMV has crystalized in many people’s mind the changing retail landscape and the headwinds many retailers face. Such a period of publicity and scrutiny form the wider public has not been this intense since the demise of Woolworths. Many opinions and predictions have been voiced over the last couple of weeks but in contrast to some reports this is a highly complex issue, driven and influenced by a multitude of factors with no easy answers for retailers, the government or indeed landlords.

Many people point simply to the growth of online retailing over the last decade and the changing patterns of consumers as the major cause and decline of the high street. Without a doubt this has been a significant factor and pure online businesses with a lower cost base have been able to undercut the traditional Bricks and Mortar retailers.  However, this issue has not happened overnight and businesses like Amazon haven’t suddenly appeared.  I do think that this argument at times is still overstated. Firstly, according to some reports, approximately 90% of products are still purchased in a physical retail environment, with, according to the British Retail Consortium 43% being spent on the high street. No one questions that this figure will decrease over time but it still doesn’t justify the statement that the High Street is dead. Secondly, everyone acknowledges that much of the future is in multi-channel or Omni-channel and where businesses have got it right, such as John Lewis, it has delivered fantastic results. Further innovations such as Click and Collect are needed to respond to the change in customers’ behaviours.  Looking back over the last few weeks a number of businesses have shown the benefit of this multi-channel approach with much improved results from the likes of Argos.

Another suggested factor affecting the failing High Street is the poor management of a number of retail businesses. With the businesses that have entered administration, many fingers have been pointed but I personally would like to defend these executives. These were often well run businesses with Boards made up of experienced and successful retailers, who in many circumstances have joined the business to try and support its turnaround. I do wonder if it was more to do with whether shareholders were prepared to forego short term gains to ensure long term success. As has been seen, being a quoted company can be challenging when a major change in strategic direction is required.

There are also certainly challenging times ahead for landlords. Indeed one in ten shops on the High Street currently lay empty with demand focused on the large and successful shopping centres.  While this shift is not new, as multiple retailers look to reduce their store footprints this will only lead to less demand on the high street and a greater need to be innovative with property uses.  Many have called for tighter planning regulations to prevent more large shopping malls being built but this really isn’t a long term strategy. Fundamentally customers want to shop in a convenient and enjoyable way and we must give people a reason to visit the High Street, whether that be better parking or a better range of local products etc.  In the short term there is little hope that the leisure and restaurant sectors will snap up some of these units as they themselves struggle against the economic headwinds causing more people to stay at home. Much debate has been made around what should be done however we are seeing some form of renaissance for the independent retailers. It is difficult to argue that there is just overcapacity on some High Streets and thought must be given as to how property is reclassified and used. Going forward it is unlikely that retail demand will match the supply and it may be that residential use and the reshaping of the high street is inevitable.

Clearly the economic slump has been a major factor affecting the high street. After 5 years of negative or little growth, GDP is still 3% below pre-recession levels. I do believe though that in some cases it has just sped up the demise of businesses who faced structural changes to their market. HMV, Jessops and indeed Woolworths are all businesses described as "walking dead" or "Zombie". Many of the businesses may have survived a little longer in more buoyant times but would still have inevitably faced a bleak future because of the changes to the marketplace and sectors in which they operated. Retail history is littered with consolidation and administrations as the sector rapidly evolves and develops. As always there are winners and losers and the ability to anticipate and adapt to the changing needs is essential in delivering long term success.

Many people have looked towards the government to take more decisive action, whether that be to cut rates or to support Portas or other initiatives, however no action will ultimately change the underlying trends and headwinds for the sector.  There are no easy solutions. Portas and other initiatives are important but change needs to happen and it will be painful.

The last few years have been extremely challenging for the High Street and as times became tougher, costs have been cut which has reduced the level of service and the attractiveness of the environment giving consumers less reason to visit physical locations. Although not the only solution, service, product knowledge and in-store theatre will provide a greater incentive for people to shop both physical stores and the High Street in general. Businesses need to invest where possible to create and deliver this environment. I wish I had another example but I am afraid like many others I cannot help but admire Apple. Unlike most other businesses they have been investing in their store portfolio and can boast some very impressive sales per square foot. I do appreciate part of their success is the desirability of their products but to be fair they can easily be purchased on-line like so many other products. The reason for their success from a store perspective is they have successfully created a retail environment that enhances the purchase experience but perhaps critically, the customer service and product knowledge offers real value to the customer and gives a genuine reason to visit the store.

There are certainly many challenges ahead but I am not sure it is as apocalyptic as some suggest - there is a future and it is about adapting to that future to meet the needs of changing consumer behavior. Many retailers need to adjust their store portfolios and this will cause short term pain. High Streets are and will continue to be an important part of the retail mix but in a different format to what we see today.  People still love to shop, people love to see and feel product in certain categories but they need to be able to shop in a convenient, enjoyable and engaging way.

Russell Adams

 

HMV’s Death By A Thousand Cuts

 

By Jez Styles, AdMore Recruitment- Specialists in Retail and Hospitality Recruitment, Search & Selection, Talent Management and Career Development.

You will have read this morning that HMV has entered in to administration with the potential loss of over 4000 jobs. This is deeply sad and on the back of the collapse of Comet and Jessops in recent weeks it is perhaps the worst period in retail since the demise of Woolworths. Much of the commentary on HMV would suggest this is a result of structural failure, that the model simply has no place in modern retail. In my view this is rather simplistic. The reality is that HMV has faced a set of unique (in their combination and complexity) challenges that have served to paralyse the business over a period when change was crucial.

HMV’s demise can be traced back to the original stock market flotation in 2002. There is a conflicting argument as the reality is that the funds generated from the float served to fuel HMV’s expansion and competitor acquisitions. This expansion allowed HMV to build the best economies of scale in their market and to be the last man standing (Our Price, Virgin/Zavvi, Woolworths, Silverscreen, Sanity, Borders, MVC…the list goes on). However, being a PLC also presented the Management team with significant barriers to future proofing the business.

At the same time HMV was floating in 2002, BT had just 136,000 Broadband subscribers and additionally Apple’s IPOD had recently launched in October 2001. There were some predictions about how these two products would affect the market but in truth very few people predicted just how quickly they would be adopted. Broadband offered consumers an opportunity to not only browse products in a different way but also to consume them differently. Many critics of HMV have suggested that they should have launched a download service earlier however in reality there was stiff resistance within the wider industry. The Wild West days of the noughties and the plethora of pirate websites where you could download unlimited amounts of content for free initially pushed music and film companies to further retrench their position (on providing official channels). By the time they had realised the tide was against them, Apple amongst others had taken up the mantle (Apple were not really associated with music/film consumption before 2002). HMV have been playing catch up ever since and the brand had been severely compromised as a result.

The pirate websites also revealed an unsavoury insight in to our own cultural acceptance and views on theft. Unfortunately many people did not see illegal downloading and CD/DVD pirating as morally wrong. How often did you see individuals selling pirated product, unchallenged in pubs or street corners? I suspect this cultural acceptance is entrenched in the mix tapes of the 80’s and the romanticism that this still evokes. This created two major issues for entertainment retailers - lost revenue and erosion of what consumers were prepared to pay legally.

In 2002 it was not uncommon to pay £13.99/£19.99 for a Chart album or film and much more for older back-catalogue products. Today you will often see the same products on sale for £7.99/£13.99 respectively, or less. This is quite a dramatic price deflation when you consider that over the same period a loaf of bread (800g) has risen from an average of 60p to £1.30 today. The price deflation was deepened by competitors running loss leaders in a bid to survive, the market entry of the supermarkets and finally internet shopping.

During the same period of price deflation there has been a very real increase in costs. Payroll has continued to rise and unfortunately HMV has an expensive supply chain model. The cost of getting products on the shelves is much more expensive than it is for a Supermarket with employment-as-a- percentage-of- sales being close to double that of the Supermarkets. A typical HMV store has significantly more SCUs (product lines) than virtually any other similarly sized retailer. Each SCU has to be processed and put on shelves individually, a time consuming exercise but an essential one if you want a wide selection. The only way to have reduced this cost would have been to move this back-catalogue purely on-line.

This however was also extremely problematic. In the early days online retailers were making very little money. Amazon ran at a loss for many years…without paying much tax. HMV were in a tricky situation on two counts.  Moving their online business off-shore would attract negative press, a consumer backlash and a legal minefield. This coupled with a reluctance to under-cut the physical retail pricing model meant that the website failed to gain momentum. By the time that ‘perceived’ consumer sentiment had begun to soften, HMV had fallen too far behind. This is clearly a huge mistake but to some extent an understandable one.

The stock market- fuelled expansion brought further issues. Growth was fundamentally underpinned by store expansion with over 100 stores opened in a 5 year period. The dynamics of the market dictated that expensive leases were signed and for long periods.

The way in which we consume entertainment has changed dramatically over the last 5 years (Permira bid over £800 million for the business in 2008). I myself use SKY+ to record TV series to watch at a more convenient time while I download films directly via Apple TV. I download and play the occasional game on my smart-phone and stream music via Spotify. I still buy CDs, I love browsing and physically selecting products but not in the same quantity that I did in the past (having children hasn’t helped to be honest). The market has also changed significantly. The music industry is continuing to move towards singles rather than album releases while Hollywood is not producing blockbuster films in the same quantity that they did prior to the recession.

When I visit an HMV store I get the sense that they have lost touch with who their core customers are and could be by trying to appeal to everyone. They desperately needed to radically overhaul the product offering. They have made some inroads into the technology market but this is a relatively low margin arena and is not enough to sustain stores of their size (neither big enough nor small enough). The appetite to pursue this further has not been there and this has been driven by a Management team with either limited vision or who are constrained by the PLC ownership model. Had HMV been owned by a rich benefactor I genuinely believe the brand was salvageable. I don’t think there is a place for a specialist CD/DVD retailer for all the reasons stated but there is a place for a retailer that celebrates popular culture. A combination of fashion, technology and yes, some quirkily packaged entertainment products. Had some brave decision been made earlier HMV might not be in the position it is today.

The truth is that HMV has suffered a long and agonising death, by a thousand cuts. I can’t think of another retail market that has faced the same set of challenges and in such a short space of time. I sincerely hope that someone with a passion for the brand, and some spare cash, comes forward to save what is a truly iconic institution. Just as I was finishing this blog I received the following email from a contact that I suspect sums up what many feel about this sad news:

"It really is - I've just been reminiscing with my boss - things like; the first tape/LP we ever bought, all the presents we bought and were given from HMV, the cool posters i used to spend hours leafing through. Of all the casualties of the current retail market, this has hit me the hardest."

On a final note, a by-product of HMV and the overall physical entertainment market’s demise will be an increase in costs elsewhere. Expect your broadband cost to continue to rise (if you can only download your music you are a captive customer) and your satellite TV package costs to continue to rise…

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Jez Styles, AdMore Recruitment- Specialists in Retail and Hospitality Recruitment, Search & Selection, Talent Management and Career Development.