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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