Time to invest in future talent and fix skills gap crisis

Time to invest in future talent and fix skills gap crisis

Beverley Chambers is Head Of Operations for Numensa Asia Pacific
Beverley Chambers is Head Of Operations for Numensa Asia Pacific

A widening skills gap means established retailers must invest in training their own to remain competitive and safeguard their future.

Auckland fashionistas were excited to learn this year that Spanish fashion label Zara would be available in a North Shore store and that a standalone outlet may follow. This followed the New Zealand entry of its rival and British retail giant Topshop in March. Swedish fashion brand H&M has also revealed plans for expansion into New Zealand.

If history is anything to go by, it won’t just be the latest global trends and technology international retailers will bring to New Zealand. As seen across the Tasman, international retailers are also relocating their highly experienced buying, merchandise planning and marketing teams.

In an attempt to compete, established retailers are also choosing to recruit international staff. However, with on boarding costs of around $100,000 per staff member but a low attrition rate of 50%, this practice is neither effective nor sustainable.

Local retailers have yet to see the impact of a rapid expansion of international chains in New Zealand. However, they are acutely aware of the fierce competition presented by foreign online retailers and the negative impact this is having on sales.

The emergence of e-commerce has seen the creation of new job roles that a decade ago didn’t exist in the retail industry. Many of these roles are based around IT/systems and UX as well as social media. Online retail provides access to customer data that was non-existent with traditional bricks and mortar retailing. The ability to mine that data and provide the merchandise team useful insights is a key role. However, online retail means the customer can literally shop the world. Merchandise teams therefore need to be more strategic with their sourcing strategy and the end to end supply chain process, which is no longer supplier to store, but supplier to customer’s door.

Retailers are facing extraordinary challenges in maintaining profitability in the face of unprecedented revenue and cost pressures. It’s therefore understandable that they are tightening their belts and this includes reducing money spent on training.

However, retailers need to consider the value of upskilling members of the buying or merchandise department. A failure to do so will undoubtedly mean adverse effects on staff morale and overall staff retention rates.

The high pressured nature of retailing means staff has few opportunities to invest in time out of the office for training or upskilling. Online learning is rapidly emerging as a cost effective solution for management looking to invest in vocational training or for future talent wanting to enhance their knowledge or career prospects. Not only are younger employees increasingly au fait with the required technology, but eLearning allows staff to choose where and when they train, bringing a wealth of international knowledge to their fingertips and minimising time out of the office.

New Zealand’s growing skills shortage and mounting competition from international retailers has made investing in upskilling staff an absolute necessity. Managers must invest in training young buyers, merchandise planners and product developers to safeguard the future of New Zealand retail.

Beverley Chambers is Head Of Operations for Numensa Asia Pacific. She has more than 25 years’ global retail experience in buying and product development with blue chip companies in the UK and Australia including Marks & Spencer, Next, Arcadia and Coles Group. Beverley is also the creator of The Numensa Online Foundations of Buying and Merchandise Planning programme and, the first of its kind to launch in Australasia. For more information visit: numensaonline.com

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