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Savvy managers in demand

Published on Friday, 26 Feb 2010
A survey of retailers by Hudson recruitment shows firms will bolster their staff numbers in the first quarter of this year.
Photo: Carla Gottgens
Companies are seeking candidates who have a positive attitude, a passion for retail and strong communication skills.
Photo: Goh Seng Chong

Despite expectations that jobseekers will start scouting for new opportunities in retail after the Lunar New Year, companies will face challenges in finding the right staff.

Jennifer Wong, manager of sales and marketing at Links Recruitment, expects more employees in the retail industry to be on the lookout for jobs when bonuses and commissions have been paid after the Lunar New Year.

But retailers - especially those in the luxury market - will find it difficult to hire store managers qualified for the job.

"Most luxury market retailers prefer hiring people who have similar experiences with their product," Wong says. "They are selective of where the candidates worked before and some prefer those who were with certain brands more than others."

She says employers are looking for store managers who are fluent in English, Cantonese and Putonghua, and who are presentable. They should also have strong sales skills and a proven track record of managing and training teams.

Store managers can be choosy about which brand to work for, Wong says. "They are savvy candidates with an intrinsic knowledge of each company's commission structure and management. Often, if they are high quality applicants, they have the bargaining power."

Aruna Alimchandani, director of sales, marketing and industrial for human resources and legal at recruitment firm Hudson, says there is a shortage of experienced retail operations managers to look after the operations for multiple stores and help recruit and train frontline staff.

"The lack of talent can be a result of, but is not limited to, store managers lacking the initiative to develop their careers and further their education in this area," she says. Some retailers are also looking to enhance their customer relationship management strategy, which can be challenging since it's difficult to identify experienced professionals within Hong Kong who have this kind of retail experience.

A recent report by Hudson shows that 40 per cent of the 100 firms surveyed in the consumer industry will increase headcount in the first quarter of this year, compared with 17 per cent of retailers who said they would hire more in the last quarter of 2009. Just one per cent said they would cut staff this year.

Annemiek Ballesty, vice-president for Asia at Fossil, which offers women's and men's watches, accessories, handbags and clothing, says the company will recruit 15-20 staff across all grades from sales associates to store managers.

"It is important for our staff to have the right personality. We can teach them product knowledge and how to sell," she says. Employees should display a positive attitude, a passion for retail and strong communication skills.

She says job-hopping among young employees is common.

To retain staff, Fossil has put in place monthly and quarterly monetary incentives and promotional prizes for meeting performance indicators.

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