Retail staff

Ireland’s Retail Sector on the Verge of Severe Staffing Crisis

The trajectory of job postings for the retail sector is on a consistent upward trend, having more than doubled from 1,578 in February 2021 to 4,258 in February 2022[1]. Excel Recruitment, the leading retail recruitment specialists in Ireland, is warning that the retail sector could be the next industry to face a serious and damaging staffing crisis, something akin to that currently being suffered in the hospitality sector. Excel Recruitment is advising retail employers throughout the country about the necessary steps they can take to mitigate this shortage and make their industry a more attractive prospect for workers.

Aislinn Lea, Director of Fashion and Non-Food at Excel Recruitment commented,

“The industry data paints a stark picture – between 2019 and 2021, the number of retail job seekers per retail job vacancy had been increasing year on year. However, since then it has dipped significantly and in February 2022 there were 39 job seekers per job, down from 78 job seekers per job in February 2021. What’s more, the number of employers with active retail job vacancies has now nearly tripled in the 12 months to February 2022 when it stood at 1,360 employers – up from 488 employers in February 2021[1].

Over the course of the pandemic, many people were out of work and/or on reduced hours – they had more time on their hands to really look at their careers, their lives, and what they want from both. As a result, we’ve seen thousands of workers change careers, upskill in their current industry, and/or just make the decision to strive for a better work-life balance.

That dynamic, combined with the fact that the industry has also missed out on approximately two years of new candidate intakes – due to workers either leaving the sector during Covid because of lockdowns and working restrictions, or indeed leaving the country – has left supply as a major issue, which continues to deteriorate.”

Ms. Lea commented,

“Retailers are facing an uphill battle, but we have identified a number of actions that employers can consider to allow them to attract the talent needed.

Many employers we speak with are disheartened because they say significantly boosting salaries to attract and retain workers is just not feasible now. However, money is not the only solution to the problem. Daily, I tell people that there are more ways to build the team you want and need in your business than by basing it on money alone.

Obviously, wages must be attractive to some degree – people need to be able to maintain a good standard of living from the remuneration they receive in the sector and salaries need to be competitive. But where we are seeing the real changes is in benefits, employer flexibility, and better working conditions.”

Addressing Employee Benefits

Excel Recruitment has outlined several key considerations for incentivising roles within the retail sector.

Ms. Lea commented,

“Working hours are a huge consideration for people. While working from home simply does not work in most cases; as an employer, you could explore how you might rejig the working week. Can you offer some weekend and evening flexibility in the structure? Candidates are looking for more flexibility so that they can plan their home lives accordingly. The introduction of every second weekend on/off is proving to be very popular amongst some of our retail partners.

Annual leave is another area where improvements can be made. We appreciate that the statutory entitlement is 20 days plus bank holidays. However, keeping in tune with trends regarding work-life balance and the fact that retail requires more flexibility, the need to offer more than 20 days is a must in retail management. We’re seeing a shift to 23-25 days’ holidays.”

The recruitment experts note that while pension schemes have long been an important benefit to employees, they are not necessarily often provided by employers and are an area where more businesses could review their policy and introduce attractive proposals for employees.

Ms. Lea commented,

“In addition, we are finding that incentives and benefits that focus on employee wellbeing, such as Employee Assistance Programmes are increasingly attractive – where staff are supported with free counselling services for work-related or personal problems.

Bonus schemes have become a benefit that not many managers take seriously. To work well, management needs to ensure bonuses are based on performance and sales but it is also extremely important to be more specific in outlining bonus details and conditions.

Softer incentives including referral schemes for new staff and/or loyalty bonuses, brand perks and discounts, and more personalised offerings such as uniform allowances, the Bike to Work scheme, birthdays off, gym memberships, and lunch allowances are becoming more common. Employer reward schemes and in-house awards that celebrate conscientious staff members also create engagement and can help increase staff motivation and morale.

While there are many pathways open to employers regarding more diverse packages for employee benefits, Excel Recruitment says that employers must be active in advertising these to candidates.

Ms. Lea concluded,

“Creating these incentives is one element, but the next important step is to include these benefits and perks in any company vacancies or job advertisements so that potential employees can consider them alongside the job role. Candidates are looking for more, but it’s not just about money – the focus is increasingly about enjoying one’s career while having time to enjoy your life outside of work too.”

[1] Indeed Hiring insights – Retail category in Ireland

You can contact Aislinn for more information at Please click here to search for all of our live retail roles.


Recruitment in the time of corona

Excel Recruitment CEO Barry Whelan gives his tips for recruitment in a socially distanced world

Even with lockdown potentially (hopefully) coming to a full end in the next few weeks, social distancing and remote working where possible are going to be the way of life for many for the foreseeable future. While things might seem all doom and gloom, there are companies actively hiring and many others planning their recruitment needs for when restrictions ease and life returns to its new normal. Whether you’re looking for a longterm leader to join your business or for an immediate scale-up of staff to meet extra demand, below are some tips for employers to help tackle safely shifting your recruitment processes during this time while still finding great talent to join their team.

Do a tech check

There are a huge number of technologies available to facilitate remote working, team meetings and video interviewing, From Zoom to Microsoft teams to Bluejeans, the list is endless. But before you fall down the rabbit hole and rush to invest in tech, assess what you need it for and whether you need it at all. Are your team structured enough that a group email thread will work? What about setting up a Whatsapp group so everyone can stay connected and in the loop? For interviewing new hires, does it need to be a video call or are you comfortable with just a phone interview? As with everything, remote working technology is only valuable if you need it.

Video call confidence

Many employers have embraced video interviews and while it’s great to be able to engage with potential new hires, it’s important to remember that video interviews should be fundamentally similar to in-person interviews. All the advice we’ve been giving to jobseekers about video interviews applies to employers and hiring managers as well. Dress the part, check whatever software and wifi connection you’re using are good to go, make sure you’re in a quiet space and that people know not to disturb you, turn your phone to silent and have a back-up plan should you need it. There are often delays and pauses in the connection that don’t occur face to face so practice not only using the tech but communicating through it.

Ask: who’s doing what?

One of the biggest headaches of remote working is keeping in contact with team members and ensuring everyone is engaged and on the same page. While it may sound obvious, ensuring everyone knows who’s doing what will save a huge amount of time, money and headaches for you and your team. Simple questions such as who’s taking charge of screening at CVs, who’s scheduling interviews/ contacting candidates etc. need to be clarified before the hiring begins. Often this happens organically when the team are all in the office at the same time, but now these details must be discussed ahead of time so everyone’s on the same page. Not only is this important to ensures a smooth running in-house but also improves the candidate’s experience.

Stay engaged with your current team

With everything so up in the air, making considered, thoughtful hiring decisions are now more important than ever. Open clear communications with teams and individuals at all levels of the business means you will be better able to identify where the real gaps and needs in your team are and work to fill these, instead of where you presume the needs are. Developing stronger communication with your team also means you’re in a better position to spot if employees may be unhappy and looking for a move and you can work to address any issues before they start sending CVs out.

Have an onboarding plan

Once you’ve done the hard work of recruiting a role, don’t forget the next crucial part of the process: Onboarding and training your newest team member. It can be quite disconcerting to start a new job at the best of times, let alone in the middle of a global crisis! Depending on your company/ the role, your new hire may be working from home without the opportunity to meet their team/ manager in person or if working in essential services may have a huge amount of information and policies or procedures to absorb. Having a clear training plan ahead of time along with regular check-ins will be key to ensuring your new team member hits the ground running.


How sustainability is changing the way retail head offices’ recruit

With environmental impact firmly in the minds of their customers, retail head offices are looking for the talent to help them get greener. Head Office recruiter Sarah Hurley explains more about sustainability….

Unless you’re actively trying, ‘the green agenda’, and messages around sustainability have become impossible to avoid. From most people using a keep cup or reusable water bottle to ‘Veganuary’ shifting from a personal challenge to a permanent lifestyle for some, what was once niche has become everyday. Social consciousness is not just a marketing buzzword but rather a mainstream mindset. Retailers have made it readily accessible and easy for their customers to become part of this ‘journey’ and from this, social responsibility has become a major consideration in buying offices globally.

Fast-fashion businesses are in the spotlight, as their customers become more aware of issues around sustainability in the fashion industry, whilst still wanting to shop the latest trends. For retailers, in order to stay on top, it is imperative that they both make tangible inroads into a greener way of doing business and then convey these changes to their customers. The goal is to make it easier for customers to shop consciously yet to still offer them great value and choice.

To meet this demand, retailers are interested in the knowledge and insight these people may bring with them when recruiting Buyers, Designers and other key head office employees. They want people with about how best to introduce these necessary changes cross-functionally whilst still managing the bottom line.

As these retailers source and sell globally, they produce tens of thousands of garments and transport them by land, sea and air to fulfil their customer’s demands. So retailers’ issues aren’t as straight forward as ditching plastic hangers or using paper over plastic bags. From the bigger issues around supply chain and sourcing to less obvious matters around card types used for labels and packaging, retailers want to ensure their green strategy and message is conveyed at every level and function in their business. This means they are seeking out individuals that possess a knowledge of a product’s life cycle (from factory to shop floor) and its environmental impact, as actions in one function of the business can have a negative knock-on effect on another.

Some retailers are creating specific roles dedicated to analysing the business and make significant greener changes, such as Sustainability Managers/Officers or Sustainable Packaging Managers. Others are adding additional requirements to Buyers and Designers’ existing briefs.

So what can job seekers do to tap into this demand from employers and diversify their experience? As this is a relatively new function within Irish retailers, they aren’t looking for the employees who are the finished article but instead individuals who have perhaps done projects in sustainability in their current role or can demonstrate excellent knowledge or a keen interest in this area. What retailers want is candidates that hold with the skills of a Buyer or Designer etc. such as trend forecasting, sourcing, negotiating, and analytical abilities, coupled with an innate interest in environmental issues and a commitment to work hand-in-hand with external stakeholders to drive sustainability across the broader business.

Sarah Hurley Excel Recruitment Retail Head Office Recruitment

How to work with your Recruiter to find your dream job


As a jobseeker, there can be certain factors to consider when using a recruitment company to help with your job search. Senior Consultant Sarah Hurley, explains how to get the best results whilst working with your recruitment consultant and what to expect throughout the process.

There can be misconceptions about working with your recruitment consultant and how agencies work. As Recruiters, our responsibility is two-fold. We align our candidate’s experience with our client’s requirements. As a Recruiter, our purpose is to join the dots between the candidate and the company, carefully matching the applicant’s skillset with what the client is looking for. Throughout my buying career, I had mixed experiences with recruiters (both here and in London) and now I’m on the other side, I can hopefully clarify the process and offer some tips to help you make the most of working with your Recruiter and hopefully find your dream job:

Research the Agency and Recruiter

Are they advertising roles in your industry? Are they a specialist agency? Who are their clients? When approaching an agency, you want a Recruiter who already has an understanding of what you do and what your next steps might be. This way you won’t have to waste time explaining the basics. Working with your recruitment consultant who has an in-depth knowledge of the industry and close relationships within it, should know which employers will suit you best, both career and company culture-wise.

Have an up-to-date and concise CV

I screen CVs quickly so it’s best to keep it focused and to the point (2 pages is ideal). You can always elaborate on your experience at interview stage. I often scroll through 3+ pages of a CV and still don’t know what candidates do! Be sure to include the correct dates, and if there are gaps, it’s no problem but do add a line explaining why. Taking time out for travel, kids, looking after a family member etc. is completely fine and can even be of an advantage to you and your potential employer – just don’t try and hide it!

Be realistic

Recruiters help match you with roles that you are qualified for and suited to within their clients’ business. As Recruiters, we advocate for improved salaries, packages and titles etc. on your behalf but you will need to have realistic expectations. Recruiters are tasked with finding the person that most closely fulfils their client’s wishlist and are rarely given the freedom to deviate from this. If you are looking to move into a completely new industry or don’t have the experience for the job you are applying to, there is probably little a Recruiter can do for you. If you’re looking for a €10k+ salary bump but the budget is only €5k more than you are currently on, or if you want the client to match your 30+ days of annual leave when their company policy is 25, you will need to manage your expectations and decide what you can and cannot be flexible on

Trust your Recruiter

Following on from this, as a Recruiter, we will work to get you the best package possible but if we think you are jeopardising your application by being unrealistic, we will tell you. It is a balancing act between getting the candidate what they are worth and also supporting the client’s brief and budget. As Recruiters, we always look for mutually beneficial outcomes for both parties. Clients will try to meet requests where they can, so trust your Recruiter’s expertise when they say a client has hit a ceiling with regard to the package.

Be honest and ask questions

Your relationship with your Recruiter should be a collaborative one. Don’t be afraid to ask questions such as, where your experience or salary sit in the market and what aspects of your CV or the interview you need help with. Be honest with your Consultant about any requirements you have, even if you think it’s minor. If you need flexibility around working hours for the first month of your new job (you could be finishing a course, your child minder could be away etc.) for example, tell your Recruiter at the application stage, so we can manage this on your behalf. That is just one of the advantages of using a Recruiter. They are able to relay your requirements to the client whilst at the same time, maintaining your value as a candidate. Confidentiality between the Recruiter and the candidate is paramount so don’t be concerned about being open regarding potential issues you may have.

Meet the Newest Members of our Expert Team

It’s been a busy couple of months for Excel Recruitment as we’ve continued working closely with great clients and candidates in both retail and hospitality. We’ve remained the ‘Number 1 Retail Recruitment Company’ working with some of the biggest names in retail, both Irish and International brands. Our hospitality wing has had a busy summer not only filling permanent roles with top hospitality groups nationwide but also providing a wide range of staff for some of the most high-profile events in the Irish hospitality calendar.

Due to our continued success, our team has grown over the past few months and we’ve added a number of talented recruiters to our ranks. Each brings a wealth of industry experience and knowledge and have fit right in with Excel’s expert team. To celebrate, we thought we would take a moment to introduce them and say a big welcome to the team!

Adrian Purcell


Adrian joined the Excel Temporary Hospitality earlier this year, adding his extensive experience and comprehensive industry-wide knowledge to our expert team. Adrian is passionate about people, and has the natural ability to engage with people and develops solid and long standing relationships with clients and candidates alike.

Adrian has a large database of loyal temporary staff, many of whom he has worked with for years, making him ideally placed to delivering exceptional staffing solutions. Equally, his attentiveness and diligence when dealing with his clients’ make him one of the most successful recruitment consultants in the business.

Madeline Hanniffy


Madeline looks after some of the top entertainment venues and hotels in Ireland. Madeline has more than 15 years working in the hospitality industry. Beginning her career in New York, Madeline has gained a huge amount of experience in many aspects of the sector.

Madeline returned to Ireland in 2006 and since then she has been supplying hospitality staff to the top venues and hotels around the country, running multiple entertainment venues with large volume staff at very high profile entertainment events. Madeline understands her clients and stakes her reputation on offering outstanding customer service and as a result has built up great relationships with both clients and contractors.

Luca Zelli


Luca joins our Grocery team, one of our busiest and most successful desks. Luca has extensive retail experience, in both grocery and non-food, working in some of the biggest names in retail including Smyths Toys and Lidl. Under the guidance of our Head of Grocery Nikki Murran, Luca’s passion for the industry, dedication to our client’s and drive to achieve results have made him a great addition to the team.

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