Luxury retail offers job prospects | Employment – Gulf News – GulfNews

Abu Dhabi is the place for growth as recreational mega malls are in undersupply
Abu Dhabi’s retail sector is the next big spot for future jobs in the high-end fashion industry, experts told Gulf News.
"The Abu Dhabi market is a significant opportunity for growth because of its population and high-networth ability to purchase," said David Macadam, Regional Director for Mena and head of Retail at Jones Lang LaSalle. "There are only two major malls in Abu Dhabi so there are lots of opportunities there."
Abu Dhabi’s retail market is currently undersupplied in terms of recreational mega malls and is witnessing a flurry of construction projects.
The Deerfields Town Square (Gross lease Area (GLA) of 90,000 square metres), Yas Mall on Yas Island (GLA of 296,000 square metres) and Sun and Sky Towers will have a boutique shopping mall on Reem Island (GLA 8,040 square metres) are some of the mall projects in the pipeline for 2011-2012 in Abu Dhabi.
The capital’s GLA per 1,000 population is set to increase by over 80 per cent to 1,690 square metres by the end of 2015, according to a recent report by Cushman and Wakefield, titled Malls around the Emirates: A Shopping Centre Inventory 2011.
"Al Tayer and Chalhoub are looking at Bahrain, Qatar and Abu Dhabi, which is not as developed in tourism and retail as Dubai," said Paul-Christian Bassett, head consultant of Christian Bassett, an international recruitment agency that hires for the two groups. "Growth would be outside of Dubai."
Still, luxury fashion outlets in Dubai will continue to hire this year but mainly for replacements, according to HR managers and recruitment agencies.
"There is always the need to fill gaps and replenish jobs as some foreigners go home or locals swap companies," said Bassett. Recruitment is now "normalising and levelling off" after massive growth in the last 15 years, he added.
High demand
Vacancies include visual merchandisers, brand managers, area managers, training and development roles, according to Four Seasons Recruitment, a London based agency that hires for M.H. Al Shaya, Boutique 1, Al Tayer Group and Chalhoub Group.
"We are inundated with roles from Dubai this year," said Eloise Corbett, senior consultant of international retail at FSR. Most are operations-based roles because creative direction for these franchised stores comes from the parent companies based in Milan and Paris, she added.
Personal shoppers are highly in demand now. The industry is also seeking a range of senior executives including divisional managers, general managers, store managers and professional buyers, said Bassett, whose firm hired for Bloomingdale’s, Saks Fifth Avenue, Gucci and Armani among others. Highly sought-after is talent with experience in international luxury retail brands, relevant degrees, and an understanding of the culture.
Talent dependent
Rivoli is hiring at various levels including brand managers, deputy general manager and boutique staff in line with their "strategic growth plans," said Abraham Koshy, group general manager.
The retail industry is "steadily looking up" and the hiring scenario will be better in 2011 than last year, he said.
Galeries Lafayette is planning to hire only for replacements, mostly in sales, fashion and F&B positions, said Tamara Tawil, head of HR.
The industry is heavily dependent on talent from abroad, recruiters agreed.
Some industry giants are shopping for talent in Europe, mainly for senior management positions while junior jobs up to store managers will be sourced locally and from developing countries, said Bassett.
"The big groups are dependent on out of country hires. They aspire to high levels of luxury and look externally to get the real wealth of experience," he said. "Dubai is so new, it does not have a long history of luxury retail, that came in the twinkling of an eye."
HR and finance managers are usually local or Arab because of trust and local knowledge; sales assistants are hired from developing countries because they are too expensive in Europe; and buyers, visual merchants and senior executives are hired from Europe, he said.
European staff help companies apply processes and systems in merchandising, reporting and performance targets that are successfully applied in Europe, said Corbett. More companies are now hiring from China because of the throngs of Chinese shoppers that descended in Dubai recently, Bassett added.
The political unrest sweeping the Middle East is making many Western candidates nervous and they are either going home or heading to the safer haven of the UAE, he noted. Companies say they are open to hiring Emiratis but there are a few challenges.
"The retail industry sees very limited applications from UAE nationals," said Koshy.
Most Emiratis in the industry are hired at the managerial level rather than on the floor, said Tawil.
"Are there enough qualified people to do these jobs? Probably not. In a perfect scenario, they would hire locally, but Dubai aspires to the highest level of luxury. It can’t find and source everyone locally to match their aspirations," said Bassett.
Salaries in the luxury retail sector have dropped since the economic boom of 2006, making tax-free income less an advantage for Western talent sought by the industry, recruiters say.
In numbers: Some facts

– In the GCC, retail salaries increased by 6.4 per cent, making it the leading sector in terms of salary hikes. 
– Retail had the biggest staff expansions in the Gulf, with 5.9 per cent of firms increasing headcount in 2010. 
– Salaries in the UAE retail sector increased by an average of 7.0% in 2010. However, only 49% of professionals in the sector (or 1 in every 2) received a pay rise
–  Abu Dhabi, Saudi Arabia and Qatar continued to absorb professionals from slower growing parts of the region.
In this competitive market, employers are looking for talent with:
– Experience at leading luxury brands or department stores (mainly in Europe), 
– Track record of success in luxury fashion, 
– Flexibility to adapt to the brand culture and dealing with diverse clients, 
– Personal characteristics: Being humble and modest. An arrogant attitude puts off clients
– A relevant degree or vocation qualification with international standards
– An understand of the luxury market in the Middle East 
– Ability to be a strong leader and motivate a teamn Well-groomed appearance, an ability to be brand ambassador, fit the corporate culture
– Professional attitude and specialization in the field
– Result-oriented attitude because outcomes are decisive factors in the retail sector
– Passion, friendliness, hard-working and easy to work with
General estimated salaries for the most popular positions in Dubai’s luxury fashion industry:
– General manager: Dh50,000 monthly with perks
– Personal shopper: Dh12,000-Dh14,000 monthly + commission 
– Visual merchandiser: Dh16,000 monthly for management
– Buyer: Dh 252,000 annually
– Store manager: Dh100,000-Dh150,000 annually; other estimates: Dh12,000-Dh16,000 monthly
– Floor manager in department store: Dh21,000-Dh25,000 monthly
– Deputy floor manager: Dh14,000-Dh17,000 monthly
— Sources: Paul-Christian Bassett, head consultant of Christian Bassett, Eloise Corbett, senior consultant of international retail at Four Seasons Recruitment, GulfTalent report: Employment and Salary Trends in the Gulf 2010-2011, Tamara Tawil, head of HR at Galeries Lafayette, Abraham Koshy, Rivoli Group general manager
Tips: Recruiters’ advice to candidates
–  Live and breath fashion retail: keep an eye on the international scene and trends
Examine and explore the company and its international operations: Understand its work practises, ethos, brand aspirations and immerse yourself in the details
– Upload your profile on LinkedIn. Major recruiters use it extensively and may check your profile and approach you.
Understand the competition: Go to their stores to find out what works and why
– Be well prepared: Research the company extensively, go to the stores and see who is working with them
– Dress smartly, be attentive, have ambition without arrogancen Show a positive attitude, accept constructive criticism, and easy to work with.
– Come across well during the phone interview, which is a screening call with generic questions on why you want the job
– During the interviews, don’t make assumptions on how employers want you to respond. Be yourself and be honest.
– Show your creativity: Tell the interviewer how you would change the situation as a store manager to improve footfall and sales.
— Sources: Paul-Christian Bassett, head consultant of Christian Bassett, Eloise Corbett, senior consultant of international retail at Four Seasons Recruitment

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