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60,000 UK fashion retail roles needed to help sector keep up with the digital revolution

A new report has estimated that 50,000 to 60,000 new cutting-edge fashion retail roles will required in the UK fashion sector in the next five years to help it keep up with the digital revolution transforming the industry.


60,000 UK fashion retail roles needed to help sector keep up with the digital revolution

The study by Fashion Retail Academy and OC&C Strategy Consultants suggests that the roles will predominantly be at head office level where there is an urgent need for better analytical and technically skilled workers to enter the industry. The positions are most likely to be in specialisms such as customer insight, digital content creation, CRM, systems analysis, merchandising, buying and supply chain management.

Lee Lucas, principal at the Fashion Retail Academy, said: “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.”

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% of 18 to 24 year olds purchase clothing based on seeing peers wearing an item on social media and 72% report an appetite for shopping directly from social platforms.

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

Despite the high demand for these skilled head office roles, the report found that some 57% of retailers 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.

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.”


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