A new breed of retail recruitment agencies

The retail industry has long suffered from a high staff turnover, averaging about 25% and sitting third highest out of all industry sectors in the UK. Retail also has one of the highest private sector absence rates. So it’s not surprising that there are a significant number of thriving retail recruitment agencies for retailers to choose between when they’re inevitably on the hunt for new staff.

But appointing the right retail recruitment agency might not be as easy as it first appears.

The retail industry is undergoing significant change at the moment. With the ever-present threat of e-commerce looming over them, bricks & mortar retailers are searching for new ways to draw customers into their stores. And their answer is to create retail experiences that can’t be replicated online – from product demonstrations to personal shoppers, VIP events and immersive activities in-store.

This is a great way for retailers to future proof their business, and good news for the High Street too. But of course the measure of its success will be how well these retail experiences are implemented – and that is where the calibre of retail staff comes in, and with it the changing role of retail recruitment agencies.

Contemporary retail needs its staff to have different skill sets to traditional retail. Nowadays store workers need to be confident, enthusiastic and personable; and to demonstrate empathy, understanding and diplomacy. They also need to be product experts and brand advocates. Due to the pace of change, not all retail recruitment agencies are on board with today’s new style retail worker.

Of course it is not fair to expect every prospective employee to have retail experience – everyone needs to start somewhere. But they do need these fundamental character traits in order to deliver retail experiences that make shoppers feel special. And retail recruitment agencies must work to this new normal in order to source the right staff for their clients.

So how do you find the right retail recruitment agency for you? First of all, try to use specialist retail recruiters, or at least agencies with a specialist department. They will have a greater understanding of the current retail landscape and its growing expectations on staff. Secondly, look at how they find their staff, and how much emphasis they put on personality traits – group interviews and role-playing tasks are a good measure of this.

And thirdly, talk to the recruiters. Are they passionate about retail experience? Do they believe in the difference that face-to-face interaction can make to the consumer journey? If the answer is yes to both those questions, they are probably the right retail recruitment agency for you.

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