Retail could be next sector to face ‘damaging’ staff crisis

Excel Recruitment warns trajectory of job postings is on consistent upward trend

The retail sector could be the next industry to face a “serious and damaging staffing crisis” with job postings having more than doubled in February compared with the same month last year, a recruitment specialist has said.

Excel Recruitment said the trajectory of job postings for the retail sector was on a consistent upward trend, having more than doubled from 1,578 in February 2021 to 4,258 in February 2022.

Aislinn Lea, director of fashion and non-food at Excel Recruitment, said the industry data “paints a stark picture”.

“Between 2019 and 2021, the number of retail job seekers per retail job vacancy had been increasing year on year,” she said.


“However, since then it has dipped significantly and in February 2022 there were 39 job seekers per job, down from 78 per job in February 2021.

“What’s more, the number of employers with active retail job vacancies has now nearly tripled in the 12 months to February 2022 when it stood at 1,360 employers – up from 488 employers in February 2021.

“We’ve seen thousands of workers change careers, upskill in their current industry, and/or just make the decision to strive for a better work-life balance.

“That dynamic, combined with the fact that the industry has also missed out on approximately two years of new candidate intakes, has left supply as a major issue, which continues to deteriorate.”

Attracting talent

Ms Lea said retailers were facing an uphill battle, but could take a number of actions to allow them to attract the talent needed.

“Many employers we speak with are disheartened because they say significantly boosting salaries to attract and retain workers is just not feasible now,” she said. “However, money is not the only solution to the problem.

“Daily, I tell people that there are more ways to build the team you want and need in your business than by basing it on money alone.

“Obviously, wages must be attractive to some degree – people need to be able to maintain a good standard of living from the remuneration they receive in the sector and salaries need to be competitive. But where we are seeing the real changes is in benefits, employer flexibility, and better working conditions.”

She added that working hours were a “huge consideration” for prospective employees.

“While working from home simply does not work in most cases, as an employer, you could explore how you might rejig the working week,” she said. “Can you offer some weekend and evening flexibility in the structure?

“Candidates are looking for more flexibility so that they can plan their home lives accordingly. The introduction of every second weekend on/off is proving to be very popular among some of our retail partners.

“Annual leave is another area where improvements can be made. Keeping in tune with trends regarding work-life balance and the fact that retail requires more flexibility, the need to offer more than 20 days is a must in retail management. We’re seeing a shift to 23-25 days’ holidays.”

She said that while pension schemes had long been an important benefit to employees, they were not necessarily often provided by employers and were an area where more businesses could review their policy and introduce attractive proposals.

Colin Gleeson

Colin Gleeson

Colin Gleeson is an Irish Times reporter