Working across every aspect of the retail industry, the best designers and technical staff are constantly in demand and there are no shortages of candidates. But does the remuneration fit the bill for the top jobs in this area? Specialist recruitment company Planet Personnel gives us an overview of the market.
The recruitment market has continued to be buoyant from mid 2007 into 2008. Salary levers have not changed drastically and there is now only a small regional difference; a number of key roles in London have been given a salary budget of ones similar to those in the north and midlands so there is little to entice people to relocate to the capital and surrounding areas, unless they are relocating for other reasons.
Looking at the salaries on offer over the last 12 months, the salaries of the candidates we have worked with and the research of the market across the UK, the following table has been put together as a guideline.
There are many aspects to take into consideration with regard to salaries such as the amount of people being managed, budget responsibility, extent of travel, pressure to produce results, the level of your responsibility, location of the company, the amount of people looking for work in your field, structure of each individual company and the overall budgets they have for each role. Are bonuses on offer that are achievable and enhance salary based on your performance and the company's performance? This has to be balanced by the candidate's career requirements, level of expertise in the field, how personality fits within a company's structure, flexibility on work hours, ability to travel overseas locations for work and potential management capability.
Some people are seeing salary and location as a secondary requirement and are moving for a lower or similar salary package in order to gain more in-depth experience or to try a new product area as part of their long-term strategy to move up the career ladder. When a client or candidate asks for our advice on salaries, we always ask for the full picture of each role, its responsibilities, duties, personnel to be managed, travel to be undertaken, location of the company, are there any extra benefits to add weight to the salary? You can never generalise on what someone should be paid as there are so many factors to consider. Our industry continues to evolve, develop and entice us to buy, even in difficult circumstances, we have some of the best people in the world in our apparel and footwear market. It's one that will continue to offer great career opportunities for those people who are willing to work hard and reap the career benefits in return.
There has been a shortage of garment technologists, technical managers and product developers for around 2-3 years now, especially those technical people who were trained to pattern cut. Pattern cutting in the UK was once a great career to be in, then with the development of technology and the moving of manufacturing to offshore locations, the opportunities in the UK were fewer and it became the factories' responsibility to create the first pattern or adapt from blocks. Initially a pattern cutter from the UK would be sent to the factories to spend time training locally based pattern cutters to create first patterns or adapt blocks for new styles to western specifications. Sample Room Managers became key roles for ex-pats abroad.
Design & Technical: Technical
|Technical Manager/Senior Technologist||25,000||50,000|
|(Entry-level) Junior Technologist||12,000||20,000|
Design & Technical: Pattern Cutting
|Pattern Technical Manager||25,000||45,000|
|Senior Pattern Cutter||25,000||45,000|
|Junior Pattern Cutter||13,000||20,000|
With the economic climate having thoroughly gone through the wringer in the past 12 months or so, one might reasonably expect the pay and remuneration market to suffer proportionately. For the first time in many years a large proportion of the retail population experienced genuine disquiet regarding the safety of their jobs. Job security became the industry's principal pre-occupation as the newspapers devoted page after page to the dire financial situation. Unsurprisingly in this period of instability and extreme cost consciousness awarding substantial pay increases has not featured highly in retailers' lists of priorities.
That said, the buying and merchandising functions have proven to be more resilient than most. Comparisons between this year's data (generated from RHR's database of 250,000+ retail candidates) and The Appointment's 2008 head office survey show a slight but consistent increase in average salary levels. This is partially accounted for by standard of living increases, although with inflation rates still very low over the last 12 months it's debatable just how much impact these will have had. What pay rises there have been are almost certain to have come through before the credit crunch really bared its teeth - it's almost impossible to envisage many increased pay awards post the demise of Woolworths. While the problems facing retailers had been bubbling away for many months prior to this, it was the collapse of Woolies that really seemed to send the industry spiralling into a tail-spin. One should also note that even where increases have occurred, for many if not most retail professionals bonuses have been pretty much non-existent during 2009.
The onset of the internet and e-mail meant that that designs could be sent with a technical pack - with all the relevant data required to assist the pattern cutters to create the patterns and develop into a sample at source.
Pattern Cutting is a great skill and widely recognised as a key attribute to any garment technical role, to be able to critique a design or sample and give advise of how best to manipulate the pattern to achieve the aesthetics required whilst reducing fabric usage, or cutting down the time in manufacturing means a beautifully engineered garment can be made within cost and to suit the manufacturing floor. Recent years have seen a drop in people working as a pattern cutter as more of these roles have moved offshore, yet the demand now from employers is to again recruit in house pattern cutters, or are asking for their garment technologists or Technical Managers to have been trained as a pattern cutter. Companies are looking to take control once again of their own patterns and in some instances sample machinists are being re-recruited to allow all sampling to be back at source rather than at the factory - it allows for speed of getting the first sample perfected in house rather than being sent to and fro from factories to UK.
Design & Technical: Commercial/Merchandising
|Senior Merchandiser/Account Manager||18,000||35,000|
|(Entry leve) Junior Merchandiser||12,000||20,000|
Employers have seen the lack of skills available and have taken action to recruit graduates whose courses have included pattern cutting and are bringing their own staff through once again in this area, so within 2-3 years we should see more people with honed in skills in this area coming to the employment market.
The North and especially The Midlands has a real drought of technical staff, there are a few factors for this - the lack of college or graduate leavers entering this market over the last few years - the focus for graduates has been on buying or design which are seen as the sexier roles. At the graduate lectures we talk at - we try and advise of the opportunities available and that a career as a technical or production assistant is a really interesting, important and demanding one and people with these skills are needed around the globe. The second reason has been that for the first time in a long time - we have seen a trend of staying in a job for longer, so instead of changing every 2-3 years, the research we have undertaken shows its now around 3-4 years and in some instances 5 years before people are considering moving jobs.
The UK has a fabulous amount of importers whose resources are called upon by retailers and brands to offer a design through to delivery service, the technical people who have started and grown with these employers are in demand as the responsibility lies with them to ensure each garment is perfect for each customer, reaches its required quality and manufacturing standards without compromise on its aesthetics. These people are used to travelling to factories to develop products and put these into bulk manufacturing, then are called upon if there are any problems during manufacturing to rectify these. The technical skills and communication skills, coupled with their factory knowledge and understanding of pattern cutting, is in demand.
Design & Technical: Design
We found a significant rise in the request for menswear designers last year, but great difficulty in finding enough designers whose expertise was in menswear - especially mens street, fashion or sports apparel. The answer for some of our clients was to recruit new graduates who had specialised in menswear at university and develop their own designers. The drought for menswear designers still continues.
Another area where there were shortages was and is in performance footwear design - many of the bigger global brands have design offices in central Europe or the USA, with the cost of living in the UK rising, it is harder to entice people into the UK from Europe and there can be difficulties in obtaining work permits for some people who are not from Europe. We have great footwear talent in the UK - a strong base of fashion or casual footwear designers/developers, with a relatively smaller number of performance footwear designers/developers, and the brands or suppliers looking to recruit are in area of the country where people invariably need to relocate to.
The requirement for UK design candidates to be based in the factories in China rose over the last 12 months - instead of the designers travelling maybe once per season to the factory - some customers were sending their designers to be based in the factory for a whole season, often two seasons out of four. Chinese manufacturers also started to recruit for the global design pool - employing designers from the UK, central Europe or the USA to offer a design service direct to each customer with a team of designers with a great understanding of their own market and thus increasing their business by designing direct for the retailer or brand instead of working through a UK, European or US based import company.