Grocery Retail Recruitment Q&A

Grocery Retail Recruitment Q&A

Our Director of Grocery Retail, Nikki Murran, featured in a recent edition of ShelfLife magazine’s Recruitment Q&A to answer some of the most prevalent questions within the grocery retail sector.

Q: In today’s competitive marketplace, retailers are finding it difficult to secure experienced staff. What would you say are the main factors behind this and how significant is this issue currently within Ireland’s grocery industry?

A: There is any number of factors contributing to the staffing crisis, but I feel the most obvious issues are as follows:

Supply has decreased: We started the pandemic from a place of near perfect unemployment but the pandemic unemployment payment (PUP) allowed candidates to opt out of the workforce for an extended period of time. This caused a proportion of the retail sector to return home to other European countries during the pandemic and the last two years has seen a number of candidates leave the retail industry to pursue roles in other sectors.
Demand has increased: 2020 saw an additional €2 billion in grocery sales and still, to date, we are seeing an additional €200 per household per quarter being spent in the grocery sector. The DIY retail trade has also seen a substantial increase in many stores with no slowdown in sight and reports of pent-up demand still in play from 2020/21.

Q: How can your knowledge and experience within the FMCG industry help retailers to circumvent the current recruitment challenges?

A: Excel Recruitment has been recruiting for and supporting the Irish retail sector for the past 20 years. When it comes to retail recruitment, no other company has more experience in the Irish market. We are a team of retailers, recruiting for retailers. With over 85% of our business coming from repeat customers, we know we’re providing an excellent service. We take the time to understand the needs of each store by thoroughly screening the candidates from our extensive database and our team also provides honest feedback to clients and candidates throughout the recruiting process to ensure the perfect match for the role.

Q: What advice would you give retailers to ensure their employment packages stand out from competitors and can attract the best talent available?

A: Some of the key factors to take into account are as follows:
Tailor each package depending on the role / candidate
This is where we’ve seen the best successes in the market. It’s important to understand what each potential candidate is looking for in their next career move. Time and again, clients are tempted to offer more money to candidates. However, by understanding a candidate’s motivations – you may find that additional annual leave, healthcare discounts or reduced hours are more likely to secure your preferred hire.

Think outside the box
Small benefits like discounts on local gyms, canteen discounts, extra days of annual leave for birthdays, free tea, coffee and newspapers go a lot further than you may think! These small inexpensive perks are a great way to attract candidates. Be sure to list all your perks – no matter how small and include them with every job that you are looking to hire for.

Profit share
With basic salaries going up, this can be an ideal option by putting in place bonuses linked to a store’s profitability. You can offer outstanding on-target earnings without impacting your store’s wage budget.

Q: From the job candidate’s perspective, how will you help them to prepare for their best interview performance?

A: We tailor our candidate preparation depending on each individual, and the role that they are going for. By getting to know each candidate and by understanding their past experience/future ambitions, we’re positioning ourselves to support the candidate through each step of the hiring process. This can be anything from helping them to phrase answers, giving them the company background, suggesting the best stores for them to visit beforehand or teaching them how to conduct a virtual interview. And sometimes, we’re just simply a sounding board for a candidate to voice their concerns.

Q: It has become increasingly common for employers to hold multiple interviews. What specific advice would you give candidates when embarking on the second or third round of interviews?

A: I would recommend to clients to get all decision makers to sit in on the first interview so that you can conduct a thorough first round. This allows us to move at a faster pace in this overheated market and leaves no need for subsequent rounds. However, if you are a candidate who is called back for additional rounds:

  • Treat it like the first round! You may be meeting a new interviewer – and it is imperative you come across as well prepared, professional, interested and engaged as you did in the first round.
  • Don’t worry about repeating information from the first round – often the previous interviewer is anxious for the new interviewer to hear what you had to say.
  • Prepare and recap on your preparation for round one. Think about any questions you would like to have asked and prepare answers for any questions you felt you underperformed on during the previous rounds.
  • They liked you in round one, so relax, be yourself and enjoy!

Q: As we tentatively emerge from the Covid-19 crisis, do you believe that staff shortages will significantly lessen in the next 12 months?

A: No, looking forward, I can’t see any factors in play that will dramatically increase supply or decrease demand so it’s hard to see how these shortages will cease in the near future. Having said that, I do believe there are still great people available in the retail industry, if you know where to look. It’s essential to have a strong recruitment partner now more than ever to recruit talent for your business, and we will continue to help our clients and candidates in whatever way we can.

You can check out all our live retail jobs here. For more information you can contact Nikki on 01 814 8747 or email


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.

Fashion & Non-Food Retail

Fashion & Non-Food Salary Outlook 2022

Industry Outlook & Not-For-Profit Organisation’s

After nearly two years of disruption, companies are still adapting to new consumer priorities, and digital is providing a nexus for growth. Nevertheless, the industry faces significant challenges amid the large influx of retail jobs required, but there is not enough candidates around to fill these roles.

Why is this? The speed of recovery across regions is expected to be uneven, and players must stay flexible in the market to attract more candidates to the industry.

There’s several economic factors affecting retail jobs such as

• Two years of minimal new entrants to the retail industry.
• We’re losing a variety of experienced managers who may have lost their jobs, or where stores were temporarily closed. This resulted in people seeking employment in new sectors.
• You can also expect to see the usual losses of managers moving out of retail for various personal reasons.
• We’ve seen a lot of retail fashion managers upskilling since the 2020-2021 closure. This segment of people are now carrying out a variety of online courses and returning to education to gain new knowledge/skills for completely different industries.

On a positive note, we’ve seen many non-profit organisation’s, address their fundraising challenges by pivoting towards digital strategies so they can provide essential resources and funds for their communities. This has helped the industry to see an increase in both sales, customers, and new store openings. The fashion and luxury goods industries have really stepped it up when paying attention to the impact they have on the environment. This is vital for the sector as many people now have a keen interest in sustainability initiatives through upcycling clothes or buying from vintage stores which has created a footfall of new customers. The growth in these sustainable efforts will continue to prosper and we’re all for ‘what’s preloved in your wardrobe, can be reloved in someone else’s wardrobe’.

How To Attract More Talent For Retail?

Employers now need to place more time into writing their job advertisements.

Some tips that will help with this are as follows:

• Clearly outline the role and the responsibilities, but more importantly you will need to highlight the benefits. Be creative with your benefits package.
• Look at the trading hours and ensure a work life balance can be achieved – every second weekend off is one of our favourites.
• Basic salary must be competitive.
• Bonus structure should be clear and achievable with stated KPI’s based on previous years and months.
• Discounts can be broken down into various costs & perks.
• A Pension Scheme is certainly worth looking at and very much appreciated by candidates.
• Healthcare is again very important to people.
• Team Building like creative fun days or events / celebrations are great talking points. Candidates buy into employers & company culture in the same way that employers buy into a candidates fit for a role.
• Maternity Leave is a benefit that we are starting to see more of. This does not have to cover the entire maternity leave, but partial cover is greatly appreciated by all.

Looking Ahead to 2022

Similar to 2021, we’ve seen a lot of challenges particularly around logistics and people. However, the retail industry remains very strong with areas such as DIY, Home and Fashion all recording excellent results. Sports casual and fitness companies will see continued growth, while “green careers” which is tied in with sustainability will remain a huge focus in 2022. All in all, we anticipate a busy year ahead with a huge demand for candidates across this sector.

If you need any assistance, please contact If you are looking for a job in the Fashion & Non-Food retail industry, please see our live jobs here. View the Fashion Non-Food Salary Guide 2022 here.

Retail Recruitment

The Excel Recruitment Podcast: Grocery Careers

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In the first instalment of our new podcast, Excel Recruitment CEO Barry Whelan and Director of Grocery Retail Nikki Murran discuss careers in grocery retail, the current recruitment market and why COVID-19 has shown the benefits of a career in grocery.

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How, and why, to think long-term when hiring during post lockdown uncertainty

As a country, we continue to balance the fight against COVID-19 with the fight to rebound against its effects on the economy. Businesses are also moving from focusing on operating safely to focusing on their longer-term goals; while still operating in an uncertain and constantly changing landscape. This leads many managers to question their strategies for hiring during post lockdown uncertainty.

What this means in recruitment terms, is that hiring someone new at any level is now a more important decision than ever. Even for business with bright long-term futures, the uncertainty that’s affecting the entire world has understandably hindered everyone’s ability to plan anything, from holidays to houses to new hires. Below are a few tips to ensure you maximise the effectiveness of your recruitment efforts for the long-term, even as things continue to change.

Take stock

Now more than ever it is crucial to be clear on the needs and goals of your business, and who you may need to hire to achieve these. Taking a step back and actively assessing your current team’s strengths and weaknesses can allow you to identify potential gaps in talent or assess whether it may be a simpler issue of retraining, motivating or even promoting your current team. By refocusing on the long-term vision for the business, as well as current needs rather than just making the quickest/ cheapest/ most convenient hire, you are less likely to make a potentially costly mistake.

Quality over quantity

An unfortunate fact of this pandemic is that more people from a wide range of industries are now looking for work. Many are looking for a change of sector, either temporarily until things return to normal or permanently. Open vacancies, including those that were headaches to fill just a few months ago, are now seeing a huge spike in applications. While this sounds great, shifting through unqualified or unsuitable candidates can be time-consuming, particularly if you’re not looking with a focused eye. While it is important to stay open-minded to transferable skills and experience, by building the profile of your ideal hire before you start recruiting, you’re less likely to waste on unsuitable CVs or make a snap decision on who to hire for the sake of speeding up the process.

Candidate experience

While we are no longer operating in the candidate’s market we were just a few short months ago, it is important to remember that to have high calibre staff, you must first attract a pool of high calibre candidates. While there are now more active jobseekers generally, grocery retail is still a competitive and thriving employment market and you want to ensure you’re attracting the best applicants possible.

Budgets are tighter and employers want to avoid having to offer candidates more and more money to entice them to move. But salary isn’t the be-all and end-all for candidates either. Factors such as commute, work/life balance, company culture and career progression are all still priorities to candidates regardless of COVID-19 and should be highlighted throughout the recruitment process.

Remember the soft skills

Although there is a lot to be positive about as the country returns to normal, there is still uncertainty around the economy with government guidelines being revised and reassessed as needed. As frontline workers during the entirety of lockdown, those working in the grocery industry know more than anyone how crucial it is to be able to react and pivot quickly, while simultaneously remaining welcoming and friendly to customers. Resilience, adaptability flexibility and positivity are qualities in your team and potential new staff that cannot be underestimated as we continue to learn how to operate in post lockdown life.

Purchasing, Procurement and Retail Buying Careers

Our Recruitment Consultant Sarah recruits across Retail Head Office and Supply Chain and always gets questions from jobseekers about careers in Buying. In this video, she breaks down the difference between Buying, Purchasing and Procurement and the skills employers look for when recruiting each.



Coronavirus shines a light on careers in food retail

As the Coronavirus pandemic wreaked havoc both on local but also on the global jobs market, leaving many unemployed, furloughed or working reduced hours as employers implemented sweeping cost-cutting measures and forced closures, I think most of us either working in or supplying to the grocery trade, felt blessed to have taken a career path that involved food and food retail writes CEO Barry Whelan…

The age-old adage ‘everybody eats’ really made sense as we saw businesses that had survived the last recession forced to close such as hair dressers and of course pubs and restaurants, while supermarkets, convenience stores and petrol stations remained open for business.

The resilience of the grocery trade to recession and economic shocks, even those created by a pandemic, is heartening for those of us who work in the industry and attractive to job seekers who want to join an industry that survived these most challenging times.

I myself think to resilience isn’t just driven by the fact that because people have to eat every day, we will always have customers because of this, but I believe the resilience comes from deeper factors that include how well run the grocery trade is and how competitive the market is.

Supply chain stressors

Firstly, a great example of how the grocery retail trade in Ireland is extremely well run, is when we look to the start of the pandemic and the panic buying that took place across the country. Each player in the industry, whether they are a multiple, discounter or symbol had to contend with this phenomenon, which came completely out of leftfield. Across the world, consumers really panicked, stripping stores of food and commodities, leaving empty toilet roll sections, pasta shelves and home baking isles. Later in the crisis, as the meat factories recorded outbreaks, freezers were filled with beef, lamb and pork. No buyer or planner or supermarket manager, no matter how much of a genius they are, could forecast what would be the next item to undergo a frenzied uplift, who knew the entire population of Ireland would don their aprons and go all Mary Berry on us!

Despite all this random frenzied buying, the supply chains held, the distribution centres ran, the trucks rolled and the store staff, management and of course suppliers worked tirelessly to restock shelves and alleviate the panic that had engulfed the Irish and indeed worldwide consumer.

Retail workers were propelled to front line employee status and thanked on billboards around the country and as the majority of the population sat at home growing out there hair and beards and probably drinking too much, we got to stay in normality, getting up each day and going to work, mostly with customers who appreciated that we had done so.

Online shopping

Competition in the trade had created diversification and some of our larger retailers had embraced online shopping. These retailers had to cope with unprecedented demand on this part of their business, using stores as distribution centres, with staff having to stock and then unstock the shelves themselves to fulfil ecommerce orders. Businesses prioritised at risk customers and got on top of demand as fast as possible, managing a complex and unprofitable part of their business to maximum effect, delivering needed groceries to those most affected by the pandemic. Retailers need to be commended for their efforts here both in food and non-food ecommerce, another great example of how well our retailers are run.

Never has there been a better time to shine a light on careers in food retail. The COVID-19 crisis has shown that food retail and those who supply into in, are resilient to economic shock, populated with extremely well-run businesses that are robust and can cope with change. This is truly a great industry to enjoy a career in.

How COVID-19 has shown how important retail really is

To say it has been a trying few months for retail is probably the understatement of the century. No-one paying even passing attention could argue that the past few months haven’t been some of the most stressful and confusing retailers have ever faced. Most have thankfully re-opened and are now successfully operating in a socially distanced world but there is still a long road to go. Much support will be needed from central government, local councils and consumers over the coming months.

BUT…..there have been rays of light for retailers

One of the most striking things from the staggered re-openings of retailers has been consumers’ reaction. The anticipation and excitement for shops to re-open and then the pure joy when they did were remarkable. The fanfare of Penney’s re-opening was huge and notably driven by the brand’s loyal customers rather than any marketing from the retailer itself, with queues for most of its stores beginning in the early hours and stretching through neighbouring streets.

While Penneys made national headlines, a walk down Dublin’s Henry Street (close to Excel HQ) saw similar queues for retailers of all kinds in the days and weeks since re-opening.

Need and want

While online shopping proved a lifeline for those who were cocooning and a welcome distraction for those simply bored at home, there are customer needs and goals that online shopping can never meet as successfully as bricks and mortar stores. While online shopping soared during lockdown, so did buyer’s remorse and returns. There are many purchases customers far prefer making in-person from cosmetics to a new pair of jeans to investing in an expensive piece of tech. E-commerce sites constantly revise and refine how they present products but there’s little that can replicate seeing, feeling and experience a product in real life before you buy.

The shopping experience

There are also purchases where the experience of buying is almost as important as the actual item itself, such as a luxury handbag or a brand’s latest ‘must-have’ release. Customers value the expertise and input of experienced sales consultants and brand experts when making an important purchase. On a much more fundamental level what has become clear is, people like shopping. Lockdown proved more than anything that we are social creatures and missed the chance to get out and engage with other humans. With more and more people choosing to holiday at home this year, that practise can only continue.

E-commerce and online shopping aren’t going anywhere, but it’s becoming clearer and clearer they won’t not going to be the trigger of the ‘retail apocalypse’ that many predicted. Traditional retailing shouldn’t be trying to compete with online, but instead tapping into what makes it special. This isn’t the time for the retail industry to try to simply ride out the storm, instead redouble efforts into ensuring well-trained, knowledgable salespeople combined friendly, genuine customer service and a personalised, engaging customer experience should be the focus.

retail reopenings, social distancing, retail

Retail’s Return: The reality of retail in a socially distanced world?


To state the obvious, the past couple of months have been strenuous for retail to say the least. It has also been hugely heartening to see the industry, retailers-suppliers-staff and so many more, pull together in putting collective thinking caps on to assist vulnerable customers meet their basic needs as well as getting creative to find new and exciting ways to reach and engage with customers.

Hypothetically speaking

What also has to be commended is the resilience, patience and positivity of our grocery retailers and pharmacies in the face of customers’ fears, fraying frustrations and disregard (whether naïve or intentional) for social distancing guidelines. The Government have released their own “Return to work safely” but at 29 pages, how much of it can actually work in real life?

Retailers in all areas have two big questions at the forefront of their minds, a) how to recoup some of the losses from the last few weeks of physical stores being closed and b) how to keep staff and customers safe while doing it?

What we do know is the measures put in place and valiantly maintained by grocery retailers and pharmacies over the last few weeks will now be the standard. But how much further will that go as retailers, and society, move from the hypothetical to the reality of retail in a socially distanced world?

But how will it actually work?

It’s a proven psychological quirk of human beings that we remember those who break rules or social standards and not those that follow them. As a retailer, suddenly everything about your physical store; the store entrance, the width of aisles, the space near checkouts, the density of people in-store are going to come under intense scrutiny. Is tape on the floors, reduced shopping baskets available and plexiglass screens the extent of what’s needed or only the start? Globally, some interesting solutions are being proposed, with Apple and Best Buy trialling appointment bookings for in-store services while IKEA has enabled virtual queuing and remote kitchen planning sessions. While these obviously use more resources in terms of infrastruture and roll-out, it does remove the stress of retail staff being responsible for enforcing physical distancing in store and have the added benefit of a more personalised, premium service.

Communication breakdowns?

Whatever way shops decide to implement the guidance, communicating the new shopping etiquette to ensure adherence without alienating or frightening customers is going to be critical. In-store, again as has already been proven in the grocery sector, non-verbal/ non-direct communication is equally important – from choice of music to tannoy messages to the type and amount of signage. Messaging needs to be transparent and frequent to reinforce rules to customers. Digital communication has proven critical over the last few weeks as social media has been in many cases the only ‘socialness’ people have. It will continue to be crucial as brands strive to extend their influence in the customer journey beyond just the basics and return the idea of shopping to a pleasure activity, even with social distancing in place.

Retail is and will remain a people-centred business and now more than ever it will be crucial that retailers of all sizes put the needs of people, customers and colleagues at the heart of what you do.

Green is the new Black (Friday)

A national campaign hopes to encourage consumers to buy Irish this Black Friday.

The “Green Friday” campaign aims to encourage people to shop locally and support Irish brands and businesses this Christmas shopping period. Beginning in America, the Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales events have been enthusiastically embraced by consumers here and last year saw more than €50m spent over the course of the weekend.

But there has been growing concern in recent years that the majority of this spending is going to overseas retailers online. The Green Friday campaign is asking people to support jobs and their local economies and contribute to Ireland’s creative community, manufacturers and service providers by buying Irish this November 25th.

The new initiative is led by Marian O’Gorman, CEO of Kilkenny retail group and supported trade associations including the Design & Crafts Council of Ireland, Retail Excellence, Chambers Ireland, the Small Firms Association and Irish brands and retail businesses countrywide.

Up to €4.65 billion will be spent by Irish consumers during the Christmas period, based on research by Retail Ireland. Brands and businesses are being encouraged to get involved and market their products under the Green Friday banner this Christmas to highlighting the value of shopping locally.

“With Brexit uncertainty and trade tariffs lingering, now, more than ever, we need to reawaken people to the significance of buying Irish and shopping local” says Marian O’Gorman “Irish brands and designers are second to none, with many that are leaders on a world stage. We, as consumers, need to appreciate the fundamental fact that by keeping money in circulation in our own communities, we are protecting jobs and public services.”

SFA Director Sven Spollen-Behrens said that Christmas can add a major economic impetus when shoppers back small businesses and help maintain jobs.

“If each adult spent just €20 extra in small local businesses this Christmas, this would amount to an injection of over €73m for small firms and would have a huge, positive impact on local jobs and the vibrancy of town and village centres.”