Our work in the North American market is ever-increasing, with desks in both New York and London constantly securing exciting placements.
We sat down with Tom, whose experience in retail and recruitment is now tailored to building relationships across the Atlantic from his desk in London.
You began your recruitment career focussing on the UK retail market. Now, you operate on roles all over North America. What are the differences, if any, in retail candidate requirements?
Regardless of location, what our clients want is great talent for their business. Of course, there are plenty of cultural differences between the UK and US, one of the key lessons for me transitioning to working across North America, was just taking enough time speaking to as many people as I could. Candidate or client side of the business, I just wanted to get a feel for how they worked and what was important to them.
Coming from a shop floor background like yourself, what are the most important skills a sales associate needs in order to advance their career into store manager and onwards?
I’m not sure if it’s a ‘skill’ as such, but I think being passionate about what you do is the most important thing you can be at any level, Sales Associate or Retail Director. Like any job, retail can be hard and if it’s not something you’re really feel passionate about, you won’t have the perseverance to keep developing yourself and reach your full potential. If you are specifically wanting to progress into management, I think understanding people is at the heart of it. I judge managers by the performance of their teams and that means adapting yourself constantly to the person you’re working with.
For anyone aspiring to begin their career in fashion on the shop floor, what advice would you give to help their transition into head office?
I’ve worked with lots of retailers who have transitioned into corporate roles. Where I’ve seen it work most effectively, brands have given an employee exposure to different areas of the business on a part time / intern basis in addition to their day job. This is a great way for people to see if it’s what they expected, and if it’s something they could see becoming a career choice. Expressing an interest in another area of the business is great – who knows where it will lead! Even if you decide to stay on the shop floor, that exposure will probably help you as a retailer as you knowledge of wider business will be improved.
Working in retail can teach you a lot about the brand’s culture and its customer. What was your biggest learning moment from working at Reiss?
When I was at Reiss, a great thing about their business was that they operated with an ‘own business mentality’. Managers were accountable for their business and given ownership to make decisions on how to drive it. I made so many mistakes when I was there, at the time I’d be kicking myself about a store visit with a director that didn’t go how I’d planned, but having the freedom to make those mistakes definitely made me a better retail manager.
What are the best parts of your current role?
The best part has always been about making a difference. We are lucky that we have some really good relationships and have played our small part in helping some great people finding roles with businesses we really believe in.
There are conversations happening in the industry about the future of brick and mortar businesses. You deal with people, a key ingredient to these. What are your thoughts on, and hopes for, the future of retail?
I’ll always believe that brick and mortar play an irreplaceable part in retail. We work with some amazing brands and I speak to these businesses every day. Service is paramount to our clients and what comes across really strongly when brands talk about service now is that it’s all about the experience, and how they make a client feel when they shop their brand. The advances in technology and ecommerce has been incredible for retail businesses, but if you’re selling a lifestyle, the face-to-face store experience is so important.
How do you keep up with what’s happening in the industry? Does current news become talking points to both clients and candidates?
I do try to keep up to date by reading various news articles, but mostly it’s from speaking to my clients and candidates. Recruiters have an amazing opportunity to gather so much information as we speak to people from so many different brands. Recruiters should always work with their clients in a consultative way; part of the service is your industry knowledge.
To get in touch with Tom regarding roles in North America, please email firstname.lastname@example.org or connect with him on LinkedIn!