Happy New Year! Retail, as we know, never sleeps but for those of us that took some time out over the Christmas period to rest and reflect, the fast start to the new year has forced us to wake quickly from our festive slumber.
Alongside the annual procession of trading results, the jobs market has sprung back to life unusually quickly at the start of January with a succession of notable appointments being confirmed this week.
The raft of new hires and promotions at Asda is particularly eye-catching – headlined by the arrival of Anna-Maree Shaw as chief customer officer – but senior-level appointments at Kingfisher, Debenhams and M&S demonstrate that there really is no time for dither and delay in the current retail landscape.
The latter three retailers each have ground to make up after a challenging 2019, hence why appointments that might previously have been confirmed in February have been unveiled mere days after the Christmas decorations have come down.
Another factor is the election result which has brought partial – if not total – certainty to the market, thereby removing a significant blockage to the strategic planning of business leaders.
So what can we expect of the jobs’ market in 2020?
Retailers will continue to reshuffle their executive teams, especially those businesses whose performance failed to sparkle during the golden quarter.
The growing importance of digital will be reflected in the backgrounds and skill sets of candidates being put forward for top jobs.
I believe we’ll also see more merging of functions to create fewer but larger executive roles. Digital and marketing director roles are already being combined as are retail and property director roles. Cost-saving is one obvious rationale but perhaps more important is the ability to streamline decision making and ensure that the business strategy is fully joined-up.
Finally, it’s important to mention the thousands of people working below management level, particularly those in stores, who will quite understandably be worrying about their future job security.
We are due to start the year with over 3,000 fewer retail jobs following the shuttering of the last Mothercare and Links of London stores and wholesale restructuring, including closures, at the likes of Debenhams.
The market remains brutally tough, especially for mid-market retailers with large legacy store estates.
As a new decade dawns, it is more incumbent than ever on the sector’s leaders to find ways to keep their businesses competitive in a rapidly changing landscape. The livelihoods of many thousands of people depend on it.
So here’s to a successful 2020 for everyone with a stake in our great sector.