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12th Apr 2022

Retailers facing an “uphill battle” as staff shortages continue to increase

Hugh Carr

staff shortages retail

The number of vacancies has nearly tripled in a year, with the number of job seekers reduced by 50%.

Retail employers are facing an “uphill battle” to find staff, as job postings continue to rise without the demand to fill them.

Job postings have more than doubled in the past year, with 4,258 postings advertised in February 2022, compared to 1,578 in February 2021.

Recruitment specialists are now warning that the retail sector could face a serious staffing crisis.

“The industry data paints a stark picture – between 2019 and 2021, the number of retail job seekers per retail job vacancy had been increasing year on year,” said Aislinn Lea, Director of Fashion and Non-Food at Excel Recruitment.

“However, since then it has dipped significantly and in February 2022 there were 39 job seekers per job, down from 78 job seekers per job in February 2021.

“What’s more, the number of employers with active retail job vacancies has now nearly tripled in the 12 months to February 2022 when it stood at 1,360 employers – up from 488 employers in February 2021.

“Over the course of the pandemic, many people were out of work and/or on reduced hours – they had more time on their hands to really look at their careers, their lives, and what they want from both.

“As a result, we’ve seen thousands of workers change careers, upskill in their current industry, and/or just make the decision to strive for a better work-life balance.

“That dynamic, combined with the fact that the industry has also missed out on approximately two years of new candidate intakes – due to workers either leaving the sector during Covid because of lockdowns and working restrictions, or indeed leaving the country – has left supply as a major issue, which continues to deteriorate.”

Lea recommended that employers start bringing in measures to attract talent to their businesses, by boosting salaries and providing benefits to employees.

Potential areas of improvement include more flexible working hours, offering more than 20 days annual leave, and providing pension schemes to employees.

“In addition, we are finding that incentives and benefits that focus on employee wellbeing, such as Employee Assistance Programmes are increasingly attractive – where staff are supported with free counselling services for work-related or personal problems,” Lea said.

“Bonus schemes have become a benefit that not many managers take seriously.

“To work well, management needs to ensure bonuses are based on performance and sales but it is also extremely important to be more specific in outlining bonus details and conditions.”

Examples of potential incentives include referral schemes for new staff, loyalty bonuses, brand perks and discounts, uniform allowances, implementing the Bike to Work scheme, taking birthdays off, gym memberships, and providing lunch allowances.

“Creating these incentives is one element, but the next important step is to include these benefits and perks in any company vacancies or job advertisements so that potential employees can consider them alongside the job role,” Lea added.

“Candidates are looking for more, but it’s not just about money – the focus is increasingly about enjoying one’s career while having time to enjoy your life outside of work too.”

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