This has undoubtedly been a year of international retail, with H&M, Zara and David Jones setting up shop across the country. Manager of the Frontline Retail agency in Auckland, Mandy Jacobson, and owner of the Wellington and South Island agency, Kiri Henare, discuss the impact these brands have had on the New Zealand retail recruitment market, and how local retailers can compete on talent.
The international giants have come home to roost in New Zealand, with a number of brands opening stores over the past year. For consumers, their entry into the market has created significant buzz and excitement around the retail industry. However, the sheer number of brands that have set up shop has also taken its toll on the local job market, as overseas retailers snap up a lot of the talent on offer.
Frontline Retail are local retail recruitment specialists that have offices in Auckland and Wellington. They have helped both international and local retailers with recruitment, including recent addition to the Kiwi market, Swedish fast fashion giant H&M. Jacobson has been observing the changes to New Zealand’s retail market since the arrival of the global retailers. She says the Auckland market is currently experiencing a shortage of qualified, experienced candidates, which is a challenge for locally owned and operated retailers.
“The strain on the talent pool in the market is due to all of the new businesses that have popped up in the last five years,” she says. “The sector is very, very job rich with plenty of opportunities, so it’s very challenging to find experienced candidates,” she says. “I often compare recruitment to real estate – it’s a buyer’s market or a seller’s market. At the moment, the candidate has the power to decide where they want to work.”
“Businesses don’t have the luxury of going through a long recruitment drive, as if they wait too long the candidate will find a better offer.”
In order to attract the right talent, Jacobson says retailers need to think about how they can provide their candidates with the total package.
“Candidates are looking for a combination of the right salary, location, and career progression opportunities,” she says.
Retaining current staff
The effects of global retailers entering the New Zealand market have been felt far and wide, but there is a silver lining. Jacobson says one positive outcome of the market being saturated by international brands is more people are looking at retail as a career.
“It’s definitely driving a bigger focus on retail as a career opportunity within the New Zealand market,” she says. “They’re giving great opportunities to retail candidates that have been their role for a while without any progression.”
For this reason, Jacobson says Frontline’s advice to local retailers is to ensure they’re working with staff on internal development programmes and upskilling to help them develop their careers. She says this also helps to ensure there’s a depth of experience in the workforce, rather than having huge gaps in your business when experienced people eventually leave.
Henare says in her experience across the lower North, and South Island, there’s actually less movement than there was five years ago by retail workers.
“Candidates are considering their options before they will move on to something new, and I think retailers now understand the importance of looking after their key staff,” she says However, she does warn that candidates are also far more savvy now in knowing what they want out of a job.
“My experienced retail candidates want to step up and be regional managers and area managers, they want to run a business, or they want to be in an amazing flagship store,” she says. “I definitely feel that retail is seen as more of a long-term career option than when I first started in the industry.”
The disruption is not over yet, either. Jacobson says in the next year, international brands will continue to expand within the New Zealand market and strain the local job market further. On the flip side, the number of overseas workers applying for retail jobs in New Zealand is also growing.
She says applicants from the UK, South Africa and Australia are all eagerly looking at retail opportunities here.
“The number of candidates applying from overseas has probably tripled over the last five years and this will continue to grow in the next 18 months.”
Henare also expects positive growth in the retail sector further south. “We’re doing well, the retailers are doing well – we’re feeling very positive about the future,” she says.