The world of Merchandising Recruitment has never been busier


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In July 2015, Drapers interviewed our MAF on the current state of the merchandising recruitment world – here’s what she said…

Merchandising is an essential function within the retail head office family. Effective stock management, forecasting and trading are pivotal to the survival of a retailer in tough times, but equally key to helping sustain and drive growth during the boom years. Now that the economy is back to pre-recessionary levels, any business which has “plugged the gaps” or “made do” during the downturn is now well and truly recruiting for its merchandising function, and I know very few retailers who aren’t currently liaising with AQUAretail as they’re looking to add to their teams.

Interestingly the exec levels have taken the longest to return to the previously buoyant levels of pre-2007, and many retailers simply sliced away either a Head Of or Director level, so we saw Heads of reporting straight into MDs, or Merch Managers into the Directors. Austerity has a long memory and it’s taken some time to see the previously commonplace structure creeping back, but AQUAexec is being briefed on these top-level searches weekly now that the extra headcount is now being restored, and there is finally choice and opportunity for so many talented professionals in the £100-250k bracket who have had to make serious lifestyle compromises during that time – with many effectively chased out of the UK and having to take up positions abroad which really wasn’t the preferred option for their families in any way.

The main area of focus for most retailers’ merchandising departments currently is within International. For businesses where they’ve already populated the UK and have a presence – be it stores or concessions – in the towns they want to be in, the international expansion is where the forecasted growth is. International merchandising is a fascinating branch of the discipline, and calls for a slightly different skillset where a more sociological approach is adopted, analysing a whole host of factors from market to market. Sizing requirements can be very different from one country to the next, you have a wide range of climates to consider when range building – and religion plays a part too for some territories (you have to watch necklines or avoid certain emblems or crucifixes for example). International merchandisers will also have a big emphasis on building relationships with franchise partners who are effectively external colleagues, and that can call for finely honed communication skills – often where English isn’t the first language. Any international merchandiser with those skills, and that very “bottle-able” knowledge, is on every retailer’s Hit List at the moment.

The other trend we’re currently observing is that demand is far outstripping supply when it comes to Assistant Merchandisers, they are a seriously rare commodity with all retailers clamouring to recruit at this level. At AQUAretail we’re seeing a serious ripping up of the rulebook which previously existed in terms of the amount of years a merchandiser was expected to serve at each level before progressing. Now it’s not uncommon to find someone only 2 or 3 years out of university commanding £30k…. not so long ago £22k was the best they could have expected. An AM looking for a new job can expect to receive several offers, and as such a bidding frenzy appears where they can call the shots on salary. It’s not a pretty sight, and it really is something I’d throw back to the industry and urge retailers to “grow their own” in terms of developing Allocators and MAAs, training them up and taking them to that next level internally. Keep them paid at or above the market rate, and let them see the progression available to them so they don’t get tempted to leave.

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