Now is the time to push your salary up!

  • Posted on  | Categories Recruitment | Posted by  | No Comments
Now is the time to push your salary up! One of the best things that I get to do in my job, albeit not so much over the recession, is to advise candidates that they should be asking for more money.  
  • We are not in recession any more, we are in growth.
  • The jobs market is tightening; More jobs & fewer candidates.
  • Most retailers have by-and-large stabilised…even Tesco.
  You will have seen the press recently about large scale pay increases in the US, with Walmart, McDonalds and Dominos all making significant pledges: http://www.mlive.com/business. There is also a growing pressure on government, in the UK, to increase the minimum wage or move to a living wage model. But how does this impact you? Well, anecdotally, we have seen significant improvements over the past 12-18 months on salary & packages at the mid-senior management level (£50-150k). Indeed, the job market has tightened quite considerably since Autumn 2014. The unemployed candidate pool has shrunk to almost normal levels (in Retail at this level), with the usual ebb and flow one would expect in this space. The influx of people coming out of P4U and Tesco over the last 6 months has barely been felt with most people back in employment incredibly quickly. When you compare to the collapse of Woolies, Comet et al, it is a different world. Many people at mid level look at some of the less positive national employment data and wrongly assume that this applies to all job functions and levels. It doesn’t. Retail cut faster and harder than any other employment sector. A full year ahead of Lehmans, we saw this from late summer 2007.  8 Years ago! The public sector is still trying to align itself to the real world with various predictions of the budget not being balanced until 2020, or beyond (12 years to get the house in order… you are lucky if you get 12 weeks in retail if the numbers drop, but hey-ho!). Retail is now under-resourced in many functions, especially the newer areas such as digital. Over the recession Area Managers and Divisional Managers were seen as a cost centre, and were cut accordingly. As a result succession was stymied and a talent shortage is developing across the market. As growth kicks in, plenty of big retailers are knocking on the door of double digit L4L’s in some categories / geographies; and field managers will be seen as a profit centre. L&D is getting investment again too. I am seeing this talent shortage now - in the agency world you have the benefit of working with multiple clients so you develop a relatively balanced view. So demand is beginning to exceed supply and we all know what that drives. A cynic might accuse me of driving the wrong behaviours or expectations. Go for it, that’s fine. The reality is that many large employers have taken advantage over the recession because supply exceeded demand. So, at long last, I am getting the opportunity to say to some candidates… “Don’t undervalue yourself, you should be asking for more.” Happy days!   P.S. I am seriously going to regret this blog given I have a number of offers pending!
 

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.

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

 

A Retailers guide to looking for a job in 2014

By Jez Styles, AdMore Recruitment Looking for a job in Retail has continued to grow ever more complex throughout 2013 and promises to continue to do so in 2014. As a recruiter I sometimes forget what it must be like to be a candidate coming on to the market for the first time in 5 years. In 2008, the last peak in the market, it was pretty straightforward - you wrote a CV, uploaded it to a job board and waited for the calls to roll in. At the senior end of the market, you met a few head-hunters and kept an eye on the broadsheets. Fast forward 5 years and the recession, coupled with technology, have completely changed the landscape. According to the BBC, at the entry end of the Retail Jobs market you are more likely to be assessed by a machine than a person!  www.bbc.co.uk/news/business Unfortunately, once you have beaten the machine you will then need to perform a David Brent style dance: currys-graduate-job-applicant-humiliated ! For C-suite and Board Directors not a huge amount has changed. There are of course fewer jobs and perhaps still a few too many candidates but all in all it isn’t that much more complicated. You’ll need a good Social profile, but in terms of how you look for a job you just need to dust off the little black book and make some calls. Having said that, the one key change will be looking for a job in the press. You won’t find much in the Sunday Times - the Appointments supplement is, well, not much of a supplement these days. For those in the middle, managers up to Board level, it just gets more and more complicated. So we have compiled a short review of the various methods you can employ that will hopefully save you some much needed time for interviews and research!

 The Three routes to market

Social LinkedIn has changed the jobs market in the same way Monster, Reed et al did in the early noughties. It has become a giant candidate database for agency and in-house recruiters while at the same time masquerading as a Social hub…oh and there are some interesting stories on LinkedIn Today…no wait, I mean Pulse. In 2014, if you are a candidate, passive or active, you absolutely must have a profile on LinkedIn. Ideally it will be accurate too! There are a few things to remember:
  • If you are actively looking for a job and you don’t mind your contacts knowing this then you should unlock your LinkedIn privacy settings.  This acts as a ‘mating call’ to recruiters, think of yourself as a peacock! Just to be clear, you don’t have to accept the advances of every suitor! TWEET THIS
  • Your LinkedIn profile should match your CV. Using inaccurate job titles or forgetting a recent job move or two will sow seeds of doubt in Recruiters. Honesty is the best policy. Also, please do not spell MANAGER as Manger – it doesn’t do you any favours!
  • Keyword optimisation, or SEO, was once the preserve of tech-savvy geeks. Adding a sprinkle of keywords is now de rigueur for your Social profiles and will ensure you can be ‘found’ a lot more easily. This is particularly recommended if you are on LinkedIn to catch up with contacts, ahem, and well you might get the odd headhunt approach too…
  • I advised last year (click here for the 2013 suggestions) that getting active on LinkedIn via LinkedIn Today and the Groups would improve your chances of being ‘noticed.’ As the recruitment world starts to get busy again, and do some real work, in 2014 I think this will yield fewer results. I am not saying stop participating altogether, just don’t expect a strong ROI on your time.
  • WARNING: If you have a Line manager or a recruitment team on LinkedIn there is a strong chance that they will also notice your activity on LinkedIn. I have spoken to a lot of candidates in the past few weeks that have been specifically told to remove the LI app from their company phone/laptop or have received ‘special’ attention as a result of their online activity. Likewise, several HR clients have indicated that it is something they watch with interest. The level of awareness on LinkedIn has changed dramatically in 2013 so it is worth thinking about what you are happy for people to see.
Twitter continues to grow its user-base and as a Retail & Hospitality recruiter it offers the next most interesting opportunity to engage and identify candidates. Twitter tends to sustain longer ‘conversations’ than LI and it is easier to develop stronger relationships as a result. Also, if you are an ‘active’ candidate you can get away with a bit of banter with recruiters and employers without coming across as overtly looking for a job. Perhaps more interestingly you can research prospective employers far more effectively as people tend to give a bit more away.
  • Don’t forget those all important keywords. Company name and Job title should just about do it!
  • Follow the companies and leaders of the companies that you are interested in. It is also worth following a few industry experts and key figures too. You’ll find that there is often better content on Twitter than LinkedIn which might help with research for interviews.
  • If you are keen to follow up on a job application, you’ll find that asking a question on Twitter is a good way of getting a prompt response. Bear in mind this is all in the public domain though!
  • Overall though, it is worth bearing in mind that most Retailers have not got a dedicated twitter careers feed – in fact only 21% of over 200 Retailers surveyed: Social Recruitment in Retail: 2013 Report
Facebook / Google+ / Pinterest / Friends Reunited (only kidding, whatever happened to them?) – each of these sites have their merits but in recruitment terms they are really not worth your time. In the same report: Social Recruitment in Retail: 2013 Report we found that just 24 retailers had a dedicated Facebook careers page. Of the 24, less than a dozen were what one might describe as active. Facebook does have aspirations to become a tool for recruitment and with data that is available it may well become important in the future. A couple of points below to bear in mind.
  • Be wary of posting anything too controversial on any of the above sites. Facebook does tend to elicit more candid posts than the other sites. Employers have begun using this site for research into prospective candidates so it is worth keeping this in mind when you get home from the pub in the middle of the night.
  • Pinterest is particularly popular in the design world so if you work in fashion or perhaps buying it would be worth looking at setting up a profile. For everyone else – it should be for personal use only!
My final point is that despite the hype, Social recruitment is a long way off being the most effective way of securing a position. Indeed a recent report from recruitment firm Kelly Services found that just “11% of UK workers had got a job through social media – a much lower figure than elsewhere in the world. - See more at: http://www.recruiter.co.uk/news/2013!” Adverts & Applications Actually looking for a job in 2014 will be more complex than ever before. The job boards and specialist press have taken a hammering over the recession and while not a huge amount has changed there is perhaps a more even spread of positions than before the recession. With no one dominant player you will need to cover a lot of ground. A few points to consider:  
  • I wouldn’t bother too much with the printed press. Any industry magazine of note will now have a matching job board. As for the Newspapers, well, you have better things to do with your time!
  • There are a LOT of job boards to choose from now so in no particular order it is worth checking the following….take a deep breath: Inretail, Monster, Total Jobs, Retail Choice, Retail Week, The Grocer, Drapers, Reed, The Ladders, Indeed, Jobsite, Exec Appointments, Executives on the web, guardian jobs, Grapevine, The Appointment, Property Jobs, Property week 4 jobs, MAD, Marketing Week, Personnel Today…oh and LinkedIn has jobs too (IT IS NOT A JOB BOARD….honest).
  • Set up alerts for each of the boards relevant to you and ensure the alerts go to an email account that you check daily. 2014 will be a busy year and if you don’t get your application in early the chances are you will not be considered.
  • Wherever possible personalise your applications. A simple ‘Hi, how are you?’ does wonders.
  • I would also advise against loading your CV on to the boards if you are at Middle management level or above.
Agencies Everyone loves dealing with agencies so this will be the most enjoyable part of your search! Ahem. Like us or loathe us we have survived the recession and have come out leaner and unfortunately in some cases meaner ;) than before. In Retail and Hospitality the agency count has increased significantly with lots of specialists (AdMore included) springing up like mushrooms. In fact it seems that just as one large player departs the market several new ones grow up overnight! The job boards were supposed to kill agencies, and then LinkedIn was too - well we are still alive and recruiting. We have written about how to manage your agency relationships previously (Click here) so I won’t go over old ground but there are a couple of key points to consider:  
  • Start the relationship building now. Good recruiters will spot the candidates who make an effort in advance and are much more likely to go in to bat for them if they feel valued. Recruiters are often accused of being transactional, but it cuts both ways!
  • If you are passive in your search then 2 or 3 good relationships will suffice. If you are active or ,worst case scenario, out of work you will need to get in touch with a fair few agencies. There are no dominant players in the market currently so you need to ensure you have a decent spread. Either way, start with AdMore (click here to learn a bit more about us)!
I hope this helps and as always please get in touch if you have any questions.  

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

 
 

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

 

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…

If you like what you have read please click the LinkedIn and/or Twitter share button below.

By

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

 
 

An overview of the Hospitality Jobs market

Having recently written a blog about the retail recruitment market I am now turning my attention to the hospitality jobs market to see whether the market is as tough for candidates looking to find new roles.

As in the retail sector, I think most candidates are often pleasantly surprised when they first come onto the market to find another position, by the volume of roles that appear to be out available matching their skills and experience.  However as has been highlighted in the recent Hospitality Employment Index statistics provided by the Caterer.com and People 1st, the competition for these roles is higher than ever.

I am afraid to say that on the surface the statistics do not make encouraging reading. The number of overall vacancies is down some 8% compared to last year and in some categories such as management roles in the restaurant sector they are down a massive 45%.  Unfortunately the competition for roles has also increased with the number of applications only falling by 2% during the same period.

However, as always we should try and put some perspective on these headline grabbing figures.  What the statistics show is that the current job volumes are some 30% higher than in 2009. To some extent during the recession we have seen a much stronger focus on retention and development in the sector. This may be an additional factor in explaining the underlying statistics. As always these statistics only show part of the picture and just reflect the volume (and level) of roles posted on the job board.

Looking at the performance of some of the key players in the market, despite the miserable weather and conflicting expectations brought by the Olympics, the market has held up well.  Looking at recent announcements, Greene King reported a like-for-like sales increase of 5.1%, Mitchells and Butler LFL of 3% and The Restaurant Group LFL of 3.25%. As always there are winners and losers however with continued growth in some areas of the market the need for high calibre individuals remains strong.

As we all know, the hospitality sector is all about people and being able to inspire, lead and motivate teams to deliver great product and great service. Many businesses continue to invest in retaining and recruiting the best people to drive and maintain that competitive edge. Being focused on recruiting middle and senior appointments we have seen strong demand for individuals since the end of the summer and are watching with interest to see how the market unfolds over the coming months.

As has been the case over the last couple of years it continues to be difficult for candidates to secure positions in different sectors, so my advice to candidates is to look at businesses where your skills and experience will be most transferable.  The expectations of clients is rightly very high as they look to drive their business by hiring candidates with experience and a strong track record of success.

Without a shadow of doubt for the vast majority of middle and senior management candidates the market out there remains tough. However, whilst the job board figures are certainly negative, as we come out of recession, the market will inevitably pick up.

Russell Adams

LinkedIn
 

Don’t worry, you’re not the only one finding the Retail job market tough……

Many of my everyday conversations are spent informing people about what is happening in the retail recruitment market. Many of the people I talk to ask me what the market is currently like for job opportunities which is interesting really, particularly given the adverse headlines that continue to hit the press. In fact it probably also reflects the conflicting signals that candidates seem to be picking up during their job search.

I think for most candidates when they first enter the market they are often pleasantly surprised by the volume of roles that appear to be available matching their skills and experience. However I think for the majority, this mild euphoria soon dissipates when they realise just how competitive it is in the market with a vast number of individuals chasing relatively lower job volumes.

So is it really as bad as people think it is? A recent report by retailchoice.com highlights some of the issues that our market is facing and I have to admit that on the whole it paints a fairly depressing picture.  Compared to last year, the number of roles advertised is down some 13% and whilst we are not down to the levels of 2009 yet, the trend unfortunately is definitely downwards. Whilst their website carries roles across a broad range of salaries, unsurprisingly it is the management roles that have been hit hardest with a fall of some 3000 roles.  This year has seen a number of large retailers go into administration such as Peacocks, Game, JJB etc. and fundamentally this has resulted in less retail stores trading and therefore the need for less management at both store and field level.

So where are people finding it toughest? Geographically there are some very different pictures. London continues to enjoy not only the highest volume of roles but also the least competition, where applications per job are at their lowest. This contrasts considerably with the North West, North East and Scotland who not only have to contend with fewer roles but much higher levels of competition.

Again, sector wise, there are quite wide disparities. Fashion has clearly been one of the hardest hit as consumers’ disposable income continues to be squeezed resulting in a 14% fall in vacancies, whilst the supermarkets have demonstrated resilience with an increase in job roles.

What is clear is that, in specialist area such as e-commerce, logistics etc. the demand and supply equation between roles and relevant candidates is nicely balanced with a good number of opportunities for people in that sector. This is further reflected across a number of other head office functions. For store and field managers the dynamics look a lot more challenging. Fewer stores mean fewer roles and the statistics show in some cases, applications are up as much as 50%.

The other interesting dynamic is the role of Linkedin; I recently read a survey conducted by Linkedin that suggested that although only 20% of candidates classed themselves as "active" , close to 80% of individuals would consider other opportunities. This was broken down as 20% "active", 15% "tiptoer" (those candidates considering a move and reaching out to close associates) and then 44% "explorer" who are not actively looking for a job but would be willing to discuss new opportunities with recruiters. They classify the "tiptoer" and the "explorer" as being approachable.  The point here is that in reality, the 20% active candidate pool are actually competing with close to another 60% of the potential candidate pool who are also happy to be approached about job roles. Unfortunately, the increased accessibility of these individuals has only served to drive competition for roles even higher and it has been argued in a number of recent surveys that clients perceive passive candidates to be more attractive.

So what advice can we give? For most senior and middle managers the competition in the market means it is proving very difficult to move sector.  Most organisations are risk adverse when it comes to appointing positions and this is understandable given the very challenging economic environment.  My advice to people is to consider businesses where your skills and experience are going to be most marketable and transferable. I would also encourage candidates to use a broad strategy to access these roles, whether that is through their own network, agencies, Linkedin or their target Employer’s website.  With such fierce competition you will need to work smart and hard to beat the competition. Our website has some advice around these aspects should you want more information.

Without a shadow of doubt, for the vast majority of middle and senior management candidates the market out there remains tough. Whilst the number s are certainly negative, as I sit here and write, more positive economic data is being released and as we do come out of recession the market will inevitably pick up . In the meantime, I appreciate it is scant consolation but you are not the only one who is finding it tough…..

Russell Adams

LinkedIn

 

Why HMV must survive

Do you remember the first cold remedy you ever bought?

Do you remember the first pencil case you ever bought?

Do you remember the first blouse you ever bought?

No?

I bet you can remember the first album you ever bought…

In the 1990s, Boots, WH Smith and M&S all endured tough times and, although customers questioned why they had lost direction, there was a general feeling amongst the British public that we needed to rally around our legacy retailers. Why is it then, that in recent years we have turned our backs on the staples of our High Street? Why has history and culture become so much less important than price or convenience? Why do we value the physical product so much less than the digital? As consumers have we lost sight of what really matters?

I began my own career with HMV in 1998. I started as a Christmas temp, like many people, lacking direction in my career and somewhat unsure what to do next. The next ten years were incredibly rewarding and exciting. I struggle to articulate to my peers who have worked for other retailers just what an exciting a place it was to work. It wasn’t just exciting for the people who worked for HMV, there was a palpable sense of excitement for our customers too.

As a Manager at HMV you really lived a great, albeit challenging, life. Summer conferences in Marbella, Dublin, Aviemore; Winter conferences at the Grand in Brighton (one that stands out was themed around a Scarface Anniversary re-release – outstanding work Trish!). There we witnessed performances from bands that genuinely needed the support from HMV to break their first album. We genuinely felt that we had an obligation to support new acts and to bring them to the public’s attention. It wasn’t retail, it was ROCK & ROLL! (to quote an ex MD, Dave Pride, at a new store opening). The conferences were also educational. We learnt about the company’s history and were reminded of our obligation to honour both the heritage and the future (Brian McLaughlin, Ex CEO, was a great story teller). You felt part of something bigger than your own experience. The business was full of egos, like any company, however somehow the sum never became greater than the whole.

We were at the forefront of youth culture however at the same time, we knew how to merchandise and sell the latest Midsomer Murders DVD. Every Monday there was a new set of singles, albums, films and games (which had a Friday release date, just to complicate things). Saturday, as for most retailers, was the most thrilling day of the week, not just because of the sales lift but also because that was the day we received the deliveries of new releases. The stock room would be buzzing with anticipation as you discovered what the album of your favourite artist actually looked and felt like. Each shop in HMV was responsible for buying approximately 70% of the stock you would see in store, entirely aiming at you, the local and regular customer. This brought challenges and risks. For instance, if an album sold well on Monday, was this because it had a very loyal fan base or did it have the legs to keep selling. Would it get any airplay? Would customers tell their friends that they had found a gem? Should you order more? This wasn’t a tin of beans, it wouldn’t eventually sell through - it was a genuine gamble.

HMV connected with customers in a way that most retailers can only dream…and yet….somehow it has all gone wrong.

Why? Technology has changed, and well, let’s be honest, HMV hasn’t. Consumer shopping habits have changed too. The customer base at HMV is very different. It feels like HMV has been caught between two very different customer profiles (sweeping statement alert!); one that is older and still keen on physical product and, well the kids who don’t really get HMV anymore.

I look at HMV now and don’t really understand what they stand for, and to be honest I am not sure they really know either. Do they cater for an ageing and dwindling customer base or do they completely reposition, fundamentally changing their product base to get the kids re-engaged? Is technology (ie. headphones and accessories) the answer? Not really. HMV has to reposition as a specialist, but of what?

Trevor Moore, the new CEO, has an enormous task. He has to choose what type of customer he wants as he cannot appeal to everyone in the manner of the HMV of old. Jamie Zuppinger of Barracuda Search, wrote an article in Retail Week earlier in the year, in which he commented that most CEOs he had spoken to felt their biggest mistake after joining a failing business was not cutting deep enough and fast enough. Unfortunately I feel that this is exactly what Trevor Moore needs to do. In all probability, the only way HMV can survive is to reduce the store portfolio to circa 100 stores and to truly specialise. The margins have became so tight that to support this the supplier base will probably need to increase their equity stake much like other specialist retailers.

And we, as consumers, have a responsibility too. There was an outcry when Woollies went under. Are you prepared to see another integral part of our high street culture disappear? Yes, you can buy an album cheaper on Amazon, but is it as fulfilling as browsing a display in HMV? We have to place a greater value on our high street.

Trevor Moore, needs time. As consumers, we have an obligation to buy it for him.

Jez Styles

www.admore-recruitment.co.uk

Linkedin Group

 

How to avoid a Middle Management career rut

Earlier in the year I wrote about the lost generation of middle managers in retail whom face limited progression opportunities as a result of the recession, in essence a career rut. Since that article the redundancies have continued to flow thick and fast with all sorts of rumours about which retailer is going to collapse next. One might think that with all the doom and gloom in the market that the opportunities to develop your career are few and far between. However…

If you are ambitious and do want to avoid this scenario you have two very simple options, either ensure you are promoted in your current business or move to another organisation where there is genuine opportunity for advancement.

How to progress your career within your current business:

  • Does your Line manager, Head of Talent, HRBP know you have ambitions to progress? Sounds simple but don’t assume so. Be explicit about your career targets. Clearly you will need to judge when and how to position this conversation but it really is the starting point.
  • Are you getting the results? You know in your heart of hearts if you really are delivering, if you are not you need to address this.
  • So, you are doing well…does everyone else know that? It is all well and good if you run the most profitable part of the business but if the board / functional heads don’t know this you will have few sponsors when the next round of restructuring starts. I have met a lot of candidates with relatively modest results but who were fantastic self-publicists and as a result they were promoted!
  • Seek feedback. The old 360 appraisal can be painful but it will do two things; firstly it will highlight what you need to do to improve and secondly it says a lot about your focus on self-development. This is a competency that is being increasingly measured in assessment of stretch potential.
  • Work harder, it sounds old fashioned but to be blunt it makes an enormous difference to your senior stakeholders. Admittedly there has been a societal push towards work/life balance (and rightly so) but once again those who do more…achieve more.
  • Get involved in project work. If you are Head office based get in to stores, if you are operations based get in to Head Office. A key determinant of progression is breadth of experience. Your Operations Directors, Managing Directors and other board members will have done this at some point in their career. This will also expose you to other stakeholders and will give you a chance to self-publicise!
  • Socialise. Get to know the senior team on a more informal basis. Once again, the people whom are liked by the board tend to get the better jobs.
  • Identify sponsors, people whom have a vested interest in you doing well and will fight your corner / put a good word in when necessary. It’s an ego boost for the other party and you will also get good career advice.

You need to look elsewhere…what do you do?

  • Put together a ‘campaign’ plan with short, medium and long term objectives.
  • Identify what you want to do next. It is worth sense checking with your contacts that this is realistic. A major salary increase and a promotion are highly unlikely.
  • Call your contacts in the recruitment firms. While we recruitment consultants are often grouped together with estate agents, double glazing salesmen and those chaps whom knock on your door to kindly inform you they have just tarmacked your drive and you owe them 200 quid… However, we do on occasion add real value. There is an art to working your relationship with consultants - in short, what you put in you will get back. Behave transactionally or with contempt and expect a mirrored response. Similarly, if you want to get the best out of a consultant, treat him like a human being and they will do the same.
  • Speak to your sponsors. If you have built a few up throughout your career they should be able to put you in touch with their contacts, hopefully with a recommendation.
  • Call old bosses. If you did a good job for them before they will be inclined to give you another go.
  • Fire up your Linkedin profile. It is beginning to position itself as a job board these days and most internal and external recruiters use it as a secondary database. While you are there delete any old profiles on the job boards – they are very much aimed at the junior end of the market. Bear in mind that this is your shop window and as every Operations Director will tell you, customers won’t go in and buy if it isn’t well cared for.
  • Don’t be afraid to invest in some external support and advice this may be as simple as a CV rewrite or career/life coaching. A good quality CV rewrite will cost between £300-£500…roughly the same amount as a new set of wheels for your car…
  • Finally, do your research before accepting an offer. A large number of candidates have found their CVs becoming very patchy over the course of the recession as they have hopped from one business to another. The one factor that generally underpins any mistake in a career move is a lack of due diligence. Would you buy a house without having it surveyed?

Good luck...

Jez Styles