Securing a place in retail executive teams and within the board of directors has naturally been connected to relevant experience and a track record for expertise within a key business area.
However, with the unique challenges facing the UK retail sector, there is an argument for making the acquisition of “young blood” a higher priority in retail executive search.
Ageism in another direction
Ironically, this industry (as with many others) has not been immune from accusations of “ageism” of a different sort in the past.
Average age in UK boardrooms rising
However, the need to overhaul attitudes to older applicants is not necessarily true of senior posts in retail, and certainly the executives and board members who make key decisions.
In fact, recent research by a management consulting company concluded that the average age of non-executive directors in the UK is now over 60.
According to one leading job search engine, age is now considered a bigger barrier to gaining employment than any other form of discrimination. In a survey, 24% of respondents felt the “new” glass ceiling in recruitment is being considered “over the hill” and being blocked by employers actively favouring younger candidates.
This is an increase on previous years and goes against the trend in other European countries, where the average age of decision-makers is falling.
Millennial perspectives matter
Those who argue that the UK is artificially skewed to trade experience over other retail executive search attributes are happy to list growing and successful companies who have millennials driving them forward.
One of the common features of this shining example of younger boards and executive teams is that the companies are fully exploiting emerging and established tech.
For example, Just Eat (average board age of 49.1 years) has built on its senior team’s acuity in the digital realm to carve a substantial market share.
Superdry’s new Chair Peter Williams is one of the retail leaders who has issued strong recommendations that companies put a higher value on the perspectives, ideas and skills of younger candidates.
Also, former White Stuff chief executive Sally Bailey has been quoted in the retail trade media saying: “The retail landscape has changed considerably over the last ten years and retail boards need to change to reflect this. There is no point having a board that have only experience of bricks and mortar retailing and traditional marketing when the future of retail is rooted in digital trading and heavily influenced by social media.”
Recruiting younger executives