Covid-19 has seen many retailers and brands either closing stores or arranging pre-pack administrations. The by-product of businesses evaluating their store portfolios is an impact on headcount, as executives question whether the organisation requires all its current staff.
The furlough route may however have had a detrimental effect on the industry in forcing businesses to streamline and subsequently realise that they can accommodate their workload without the furloughed staff. This could leave many experienced employees a victim of redundancy.
Many retailers have already announced job cuts. British luxury brand Mulberry is to axe up to a quarter of its global workforce as a result of coronavirus, White Stuff has entered redundancy consultations within its head office and UK retail teams. Debenhams has cut hundreds of head office roles after placing them on to the furlough scheme during the crisis.
Staff culling like this will, of course, reduce a business’s overheads, but also leaves an abundance of redundant skilled workforce across the sector in buying and merchandising, retail operations, design and technical roles.
These candidates will now need to adapt to their situation by being more dynamic and entrepreneurial in their job search, as new, developing and emerging companies look to tap into their expertise via a freelancing route. Going forward, contracting across multiple organisations could very well be the norm for fixed or short term positions. It will allow variety of work for employees but also allow businesses to access skilled workers without the need for long-term investment.
Businesses will also need to change their mind-set. They will need set clear objectives for contracted or freelance staff and establishing tangible KPI’s that measure their output. However, they also run the risk that the employee may find full-term work or a more lucrative contract.
The world is changing and retail is among the sectors that are changing the most, with more and more of us needing a flexible work solution.
Freelancing and contracting means a retailer could employ a team of buyers for one season, a merchandise director on a three day week, perhaps a designer for one collection or an ecommerce social media expert for a fixed 12 months.
These roles are not traditionally temporary, however, with this new approach, retailers get fresh concepts and diversity without the burden of long-term employment issues. Retailers can also change their teams with regularity, introducing new ideas and responding with incredible speed to what the consumer wants.
Post coronavirus, there are going to be lots of highly in demand skills and great talent available but those people will also be considering how they want to work, wanting flexibility. If companies don’t take note, they will miss out on the best staff and lose out to competitors.