Career Advice Featured stories and job trends

Retailer expansion drives need for property and construction expertise

Hong Kong continues to be the gateway to business in mainland China and the recruitment market remains buoyant despite recent social unrest in the city, China’s clampdown on corruption and the ongoing economic recovery in the United States, European and Japanese markets.

Retailers are continuing to establish their businesses in Hong Kong as a hub for regional operations in Asia, with a particular focus on launching their businesses in the mainland. Local Chinese retailers there are also growing their presence through store expansion programmes. 

While the retail market remains active, we are seeing a different type of retailer aggressively expanding. Fast fashion and fast-moving consumer groups ) brands are leading the way and overtaking luxury brands, which have traditionally been more prominent. 

These developments in retail businesses are creating a high demand for quality property and construction professionals in Hong Kong, with various employers competing to hire from the same talent pool.

In the current market, retail leasing specialists and retail store project or construction managers are the property and construction professionals most sought-after by retail employers. 

As the success of a store depends heavily on securing suitable locations for the retailer at commercially viable terms, retail leasing professionals who can work directly with local agents and shopping mall owners to achieve this are essential. 

Retail store project or construction managers with knowledge of local building, fire, and health and safety regulations, as well as cost planning and licensing, are extremely valuable to retailers that are expanding their premises or undergoing store construction and refurbishments.

As retailers are focusing on extending their operations from Hong Kong to the mainland, professionals with these in-demand property and construction skills, as well as strong English and Mandarin language skills, an exposure to China and a willingness to be based in or travel to the mainland, are highly desirable to employers.

While Hong Kong property developers are still in need of local talent, this year has seen a slowdown in investment in the mainland real estate market, particularly outside of the first-tier cities. However, the number of new and ongoing property development projects in Hong Kong has remained steady and demand for residential and commercial properties has stayed strong. 

In terms of recruitment, we are continuing to see high demand from Hong Kong developers for professionals in property management, project management, retail leasing, and technical and building services, and professionals with quantity surveying expertise.

The downside of this high demand is an inevitable skills shortage. As Hong Kong continues to be an integral geographical and economic hub in the Asia-Pacific region and real estate continues to drive the local economy, the skill shortages are unlikely to improve drastically in the near future. 

It is interesting to see a number of employers in the market currently focusing more heavily on staff retention, work-life-balance schemes and other fringe benefits to retain their staff. At the same time, employers are keeping an open mind in searching for professionals with various work and educational backgrounds to maximise their business’s chances of success. 

Employers are now also acutely aware of the requirement to move quickly in the job market, since if a qualified professional is on the market, he or she is likely to have multiple employment offers available to them. Therefore, employers with long, drawn-out selection processes can run the risk of losing that professional to competitors. 

As we approach the end of the year, there are a significant number of potential jobseekers who are fairly inactive in the job market, with many opting to hold out to secure their year-end bonuses. 

Jobseekers are also increasingly more considerate in their selection of opportunities, with a greater focus on career development and company culture rather than just salary alone. 

Selecting the right company and job role is an important decision, particularly for those jobseekers who do not want to end up with a career reputation of moving around too much. 


James Leung is manager of Michael Page's property and construction team in Hong Kong.