The Great Resignation & the Luxury Fashion Industry: What Does it Mean for Companies & Candidates ?

You might be familiar with the term The Great Resignation by now, coined by Professor Anthony Klotz of Texas A&M University. In 2021, he predicted huge resignations across the United States, as workers seek more stable and flexible jobs, change career paths into more stable sectors and companies try to recuperate teams of staff they lost due to the pandemic.

The Great Resignation wasn’t limited to the United States, however, as it too washed up on the shores of the UK. At the beginning of 2022, the CBI released their action plan for navigating labour shortages, identifying that they were having a significant impact on the UK’s growth and the ability for sectors of the economy to run efficiently.

Of course, the retail sector is feeling the heat from The Great Resignation, (and inflation and supply chain issues) with particularly high-skilled and experienced roles such as store manager and assistant store managers difficult to fill.

The last two years have proved to be one of the most difficult times for recruitment in a generation, but in other ways, they also represent a time of real potential and change. So, what does the Great Resignation mean for companies and candidates navigating recruitment in the luxury fashion industry? Here’s OTB’s take.

A Shortage of Talent?

Luxury fashion is a tough business. Often candidates need bespoke knowledge and expertise if they’re to make entry into some of the most lauded companies such as Hermes, Gucci and Harrods as well as independent couture businesses.

In wake of the Brexit referendum and Covid-19, the demographics that make up the labour markets that traditionally fill these roles has shifted. The compounding effects of Brexit, Covid, new immigration laws and recently the Cost of Living Crisis, have caused talent from across Europe to migrate out of the UK. EU nationals began leaving the UK since the Brexit vote in 2016, with another drop in the recruitment of EU nationals again in 2021.

More than that, Covid pushed retailers and companies to make mass redundancies across their operations, including, crucially, recruitment teams. With the return of regular shop opening hours, fashion weeks, international travel and major events, the consumer demand is there, but the workforce of this country is looking very different to how it was pre-Covid.

But Brexit and Covid aren’t the only contributing forces. UK non-nationals and nationals alike recognise the demands they can make for better working conditions; leading companies to compete with counter offers, pay increases, benefits and opportunities for career progression. In fact, research from Explorance found that a failure to act on and make feedback an option for employees drives job dissatisfaction.

Whilst competition is still fierce, for the best of the best out there, to an extent, the market is in their favour.

How The Great Resignation Has Changed How We Work

There may be candidates in large volumes applying for roles with some of the most respected fashion brands around the world, but that doesn’t mean they retain those candidates, nor does it mean they don’t struggle to fill the roles.

Whilst retail stores might not be able to offer hybrid working, it’s clear there are expectations candidates have of their prospective employers. Rumours flying about mistreated staff doesn’t do a brand any justice and will only dissuade future (particularly Gen-Z) talent from applying.

This doesn’t just pertain to stores either: from merchandising to operations, marketing and PR, employees are expecting more flexible options, a better work-life balance and more consideration for mental health and wellbeing. The companies that are committing to a future with better work-life prospects are the ones pooling the best talent.

Something else employees appreciate, potentially more than a salary increase? Recognition. Research from Gallup found that recognition is one the most effective, low-cost tools companies can use in their organisational culture.

Clearly, if companies want to attract the very best, they have to offer the best.

Wisdom from OTB Founder & Director, Charmain Gyles-Ferguson.

So, there are challenges abound for candidates and recruiters alike. What can candidates look out for when they’re hunting for their next big job in luxury fashion? What can companies do to make the recruiting process a smoother project?

OTB Founder and Director Charmain Gyles-Ferguson has over 25 years’ experience in the luxury fashion industry and has paired some of the best talent in the country with some of the most respected global fashion brands. We asked her what advice she would give to candidates who are weighing up their options, and what businesses can do to find the best talent in such unprecedented times.

“Over the past year at OTB we have had to adapt to a surge of recruitment needs across all categories (head office, retail operations, wholesale, design & production, marketing) junior to mid management, both nationally and internationally. This is certainly a candidate driven market for all the reasons listed above. 

My advice to candidates will be to interview the person who is interviewing you! Make a list of questions that are important to you, that will enable you to make the right decision. Don’t let an increase in salary be the only reason to change jobs. What will the future look like with the new company, prospects, expectations, how are staff recognised /rewarded for hard work and dedication, how would they describe the team you will be joining etc

My advice to Companies – this is a time more than ever to make sure your teams feel valued and respected. Listening to your staff concerns – they need to be heard or they will walk. Regular one to one’s to nip in the bud any dissatisfaction. Look at ways to motivate, support and incentivise. Adapting to a new way of working (flexible hours, hybrid, opening later or closing earlier etc) means payroll budgets will have to be increased. When interviewing, be decisive and make offers sooner rather than the ‘old’ process of 3/4/5 interviews later! In this market, candidates don’t have the patience or time to wait, when your competitor have already made their offer. 

If companies do not adapt quickly to the current market, they will lose their best talent and struggle to attract new candidates.”


OTB Is Here to Help

Outside the Box Recruitment is a boutique luxury fashion, beauty, and lifestyle recruitment agency. Our mission is always to find the perfect partnership between our candidates and clients. That means looking at more than just skills and qualifications, but also personality, goals, and ambitions. Our focus isn’t on the volume of CVs we send out or calls we make. We focus on quality and longevity.

The brands we have recruited for are listed on our client tab of our website. If you need help with navigating recruitment in the age of The Great Resignation, don’t hesitate to contact us today.



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A few words about the article author

Dwayne Ferguson is Head of Digital at Outside The Box Recruitment.

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