Fashion industry in need of technical retail roles

In order for UK fashion to keep up with the “digital revolution transforming the industry” they will need to create 50-60,000 technical and analytical fashion retail roles in the next five year, according to a recent report from the Fashion Retail Academy and OC&C Strategy Consultants.

The ‘Fast Forwarding Fashion: Skills For The Future’ report reveals that 60,000 new analytical, digital, technical, merchandising and supply chain management roles will be needed by 2020 due to the rise in digital shopping channels.

These roles will predominantly be in head office, where its states there is an “urgent need” for better analytical and technically skilled workers to enter the industry. Skills include analytical roles, especially customer insight, digital content creation and technical roles such as CRM knowledge, and systems analysis, as well as those in merchandising, buying and supply chain management.

Despite high demand for these skilled head office roles, over half of retailers, 57 percent are struggling to find the right people for these roles, revealing an urgent skills gap facing the UK’s fashion industry over the next five years. The skills gap is especially high when trying to fill technical//IT roles, closely followed by analytical positions.

The report predicts that analytical roles are likely to grow by more than 50 percent, while technical roles are expected to grow by 30 to 40 percent, and overall there will be an increase of 20 to 30 percent in central employees.

Retail industry needs to plug technical and analytic skills gap

One of the key drivers of the change is the adoption of social media channels to buy and engage with fashion. The report reveals that 58 percent of 18 to 24-year-olds purchase clothing based on seeing peers wearing an item on social media and 72 percent report an appetite for shopping directly from social platforms.

In response, retailers in the UK are expecting to spend 22 percent of their overall marketing budget on social media in the next five years, compared to an average 9 percent now, with more than a quarter of retailers in the UK believing social media will significantly change their business model by 2020.

Michael Jary, partner at OC&C Strategy Consultants and co-author of the report, said: “The retailers’ hiring struggle is very real. The industry is changing at a breakneck speed, but the pool of skilled candidates ready to step up to the challenge simply isn’t there.

“Many retailers have already recognised current skills gaps within their organisation, with three-quarters of retailers providing in-house training for experienced staff and management to plug these gaps. However, all of the retailers we spoke with believe that the skills required in these areas would be entirely new in five years’ time, and supporting rigorous and evolving training programmes will be a challenge for retailers.”

Jary added: “In order to keep the UK at the forefront of the world’s fashion industry, retailers need to partner with educational institutions to develop bespoke training programmes which build the specific skills their employees need to learn.”

Lee Lucas, principal at the Fashion Retail Academy, commented: “The fashion industry is becoming increasingly complex, requiring higher calibre skills than ever before. However, the future prospects of the industry are not yet armed with those analytical, technical and digital skills required to propel the industry forward. As an employer-led college, the FRA is in a unique position to help bridge the skills gap for new joiners and help the industry upskill their existing workforce.

“Technical, merchandising, digital and analytical roles, which are expected to grow significantly, are already areas where retailers struggle to recruit. Graduates, and even GCSE and A-level students dreaming up their careers today simply do not know about the exciting roles that retail increasingly offers and requires. One of the things we are doing to address that is launching ‘Retail Reimagined’, our industry-led careers campaign to ensure the FRA can inspire people to prepare for opportunities available and help retailers acquire the talent they need to secure the future of the fashion industry in this country.”

Image: Fashion Retail Academy/OC&C Strategy Consultants