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Retailers face specialist skills crunch: new study

A new study is predicting that the UK retail sector is at risk of losing its specialist skills.


Retailers face specialist skills crunch: new study

A new study is predicting that the UK retail sector is at risk of losing its specialist skills.

According to a survey of 2,000 white collar professionals by recruiter Michael Page, 57% of the retail professionals polled said they considered themselves to be generalists rather than specialists, and that they now spend at least two in every five working days on activities outside their core specialism.

The recruiter is warning that the decline in specialist expertise could harm business growth in the retail sector. Already, one in five retail professionals feel that having a more generalist role is affecting their productivity and over a third said that the lack of specialist skills in their company is placing unnecessary pressure on them to meet customer demands.

The research also found that almost half (45%) of retail professionals are concerned that their skill-sets are being diluted by non-core activities and 55% think they are spending more time on non-core activities than expected when first starting their job. In response, a third (39%) of retail professionals said they felt stuck in a rut and that they did not feel valued by their employer.

Rob Archer, regional director at Michael Page Retail, said: “Our survey found that specialist skills are literally being squeezed out of the retail sector. This is a fast-paced industry, and transferable skills are important but it’s equally important that retailers take time to develop their staff and nurture their specialist skills. Without this, the industry will struggle to innovate and make the most of the upturn.”

With the trend for omni-channel retail expected to accelerate in 2014, Archer said it was more important than ever that retailers included employees in their teams who possessed the right specialist IT innovation and customer service skills.

He added: “Great customer service has and always will be of high importance in retail; but with the growth of e-commerce and omni-channel, we now need to pay equal attention to the customer experience online. This can only happen if retailers have skilled individuals in place and ensure that those skills are both protected and nurtured.”

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