With the faint glimmers of recovery combined with concerns over the effects of public spending cuts / tax rises, the marketplace remains unsettled for retailers. In this period of economic austerity what are the salary prospects for the hardworking folk of the buying and merchandising functions? Victoria Partington of specialist recruitment consultancy Retail Human Resources provides a market snapshot plus the all important salary information.
Over the past 12 months the retail recruitment market has been improving slowly but surely, with the last six in particular having looked especially promising. This is mainly due to the increased sales performance seen by many retailers. This improved performance has encouraged many companies to give the green light to recruitment once again.
Naturally retailers are still monitoring these budgets and costs very carefully. With every cost having to be justified, recruitment decisions are taking longer to be made and candidates are really having to demonstrate why they are worth their salary. In a market where every penny is still being closely watched, costs can play a major role in the outcome of decisions and most retailers will often choose the 'cheaper option' if faced with candidates with differing salary expectations.
Nevertheless the market is definitely moving once again and we have also started to see a greater variety of roles becoming available again. A year ago the vast majority of positions being actively recruited for were in the merchandising sector. Over the past six months we have started to see visual merchandising, marketing and ecommerce roles become more abundant, although merchandising roles are still dominant across head office.
Although the economic climate has certainly had an effect on the number of head office vacancies available, salary bandings have remained largely unaffected. However, the number of people putting job searches on hold during the recession is now reflected in the current lack of available talent across the market. Many people were not confident enough in the market to risk a move - the general consensus being to stay put and keep their heads down.
With it still proving difficult for more junior candidates to move up a level externally, many retailers have been offering a sideways move for a better salary. For example a £25k candidate could move to an equivalent role and reasonably expect a £2k or £3k pay rise. Due to a bigger lack of available talent at senior level, however, retailers have been more receptive to offering these candidates a straight promotion as opposed to a side step.
With a rise in the number of conscientious consumers tightening their purse strings, value retailers have gone from strength to strength this year. Retailers based outside London have also continued to offer candidates attractive salary packages in the hope of enticing the best people to their businesses. While they are not actually paid more money for the roles, moving away from the astronomic cost of living in London the candidates end up financially better off. This, combined with a potential relocation package for more senior candidates can prove particularly lucrative.
On a more positive note due to improved sales performance, many retailers gave pay rises and paid out bonuses to employees this year for the first time since 2007.
Twelve months ago recruitment activity was poor. With so many retailers going into administration, people weren't willing to leave their secure jobs and risk a role with a company that might adopt a "last in first out" policy. Those that were unfortunate enough to have been made redundant flooded the market and were faced with the harsh reality that there was very little in the way of new opportunities.
This influx of candidates created more competition for the few roles that were available. Retailers started to be more selective about the type of candidate they wanted, and indeed could afford to be so as they had so many redundant people from whom to choose.
The improvement in the new financial year has seen an increase in candidate applications. Those who sat quietly waiting for the market to improve saw this increased activity as a sign that things were getting better, and gained more confidence in terms of pursuing new opportunities.
Since April the market has picked up considerably. Those tied to roles by the lure of a bonus waited for this to be paid out in May, and then put their job search into overdrive. Predicting just this, many retailers launched large scale recruitment campaigns across the national and local press. This has had a huge impact in the number of roles and candidates now becoming available, and I think that there may finally be light at the end of the tunnel!
In terms of salary ranges compared to a year ago, the vast majority of B&M roles have seen little difference. Junior level salaries, including graduate and entry level BAA's and allocators are still expected to earn around £18k, although some retailers are now offering up to a maximum of £20k following annual pay reviews. First appointment ABs and AMs have also seen little movement and would be earning £22k for each of these roles. As a general rule these positions do not offer a bonus, so market conditions over the past 12 months will have had little impact on the amount these candidates take home.
More established assistant buyers and merchandisers have again been looking at a maximum average salary of £30k this year, and junior buyers and merchandisers are still expected to command an average maximum of £35k. In some cases, candidates at this level have received a bonus this year which can add approximately 10% onto their basic salary.
Buyers and merchandisers have seen no movement on their maximum average salary from £50k. Similarly though, in many cases these candidates have received bonuses this year, which at this level can add approximately 20% onto their basic salary.
The same pattern has followed through to the more senior end of the industry, with senior buyers and merchandisers seeing no real increase in their average salary ranges, but again being compensated for this through bonuses.
Benefits do differ from company to company, and for graduates and entry level BAA's and allocators, the benefit packages are very basic with most only receiving staff discount. AM's and AB's may also be eligible for a small bonus on top of this. At junior buyer/merchandiser level, candidates can expect to receive a slightly larger bonus, and may also be eligible for private healthcare and a contributory pension.
From established buyer and merchandiser level upwards, candidates can expect to receive a car allowance (ranging from £4k to £6k dependent on the seniority of the role), private healthcare (which may also cover their partner, again this is dependent on the level of the role), pension scheme and up to 20% performance related bonus.
Recruitment and bonuses were among the first things to be cut during the darkest months of 2008-09. The increased fluidity in recruitment and the reinstatement of bonuses within many organisations is perhaps the clearest indication that there is at least modest optimism in the retail market.
|Graduate/Entry Level BAA||£17,000||£18,500||£17,500|
|First Appointment Asst Buyer||£20,000||£22,000||£21,000|
|Established Asst Buyer||£25,000||£30,000||£26,000|
|Head of Buying||£70,000||£100,000||£90,000|
|Graduate/Entry level Allocator||£17,000||£18,000||£17,500|
|First Appointment Asst Merchandiser||£20,000||£22,000||£21,000|
|Established Assistant Merchandiser||£25,000||£30,000||£26,000|