Fashion’s workforce is not amused.
This story first appeared in the June 18, 2013 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
Several years into the recovery from the Great Recession, workers in the fashion and retail industries are continuing to wait for payback. They are increasingly dissatisfied with their jobs, less happy with the balance between their work and the rest of their lives and more likely to be looking for alternative employment.
The findings, included in the 2013 Salary and Job Market Report from 24 Seven, the New York-based talent recruitment firm, represent a continuation of a deteriorating view of the job market among fashion industry employees with a variety of disciplines and with varying degrees of seniority and expertise.
And they come despite numerous signs of better circumstances for the industry’s many workers. Among the more than 1,300 workers surveyed, average compensation rose 6 percent last year, to $68,000, and nearly one-third of employees — 32 percent — saw their salaries rise at least 10 percent.
But signs of management-labor division were strong. Thirty-two percent of executives had a year-on-year salary increase of 21 percent or more, and exactly half had an increase of 10 percent or more. Bonuses also rose at a faster rate for executives than they did among employees, and 48 percent of employees had either the same or a lower bonus than in the prior year, versus 27 percent of executive-level workers.
“Talent is asking for the same thing it’s been asking for for years, and it remains dissatisfied and in fact more so,” said Celeste Gudas, president of 24 Seven. “It’s a very disruptive time in the industry, and with consolidation and the shift towards e-commerce, workers see fewer opportunities.”
The percentage of workers who said they were satisfied with their jobs fell to 48 percent in this year’s study, sinking below the 50 percent mark and down from 51 percent in last year’s survey and a robust 60 percent in 2011. Those indicating they are “highly satisfied” fell to 14 percent from 16 percent a year ago. The study noted that satisfaction was greatest in the luxury and direct markets, including e-commerce and catalogue/mail order, and lowest among lifestyle brands.
Indicative of both opportunism in a strengthening economy and disillusionment that their expectations hadn’t been met, 86 percent said they were looking for other jobs or least open to new possibilities this year, a sizable leap from 70 percent a year ago and 68 percent in 2011. The percentage of digital talent considering a job change in the coming year came in at 89 percent.
Less than two-thirds — 64 percent — view their work-life balance as “good” or “great,” down from 69 percent in the 2012 edition of the survey.
The 2013 report highlighted a number of findings from workers in the digital arena, who constituted 10 percent of the sample, and freelance talent, which made up 22 percent. While declining among the general sample, freelancers rating their work-life balance “good” or “great” rose to 82 percent from 79 percent in 2012.
Whether for their independent spirit or the personal assumption of their own benefit costs, freelancers are in greater demand, as 69 percent of executives said they would either maintain or increase their use of independent workers. About eight of nine freelancers — 88 percent — will either maintain or increase their rates.
While salary and benefit issues continued to rate as the greatest drivers of job searches, better growth potential and improved quality of life also ranked high, and dissatisfied employees indicated that they were looking for their employers to help them develop clear career objectives and help them achieve skill and advancement.
Gudas noted that digital talent is transforming 24 Seven’s business in much the way it is transforming retail, with about half of its talent now in the digital/e-commerce space, up from just 5 percent five years ago. Finding and retaining digital talent has been a challenge for many in the retail and fashion industries and a big reason that one in four vacancies in fashion and retail have been open for five years or more, she noted.
“It’s a very disruptive time in the industry, and the competition for digital talent isn’t just between retailers and fashion companies,” Gudas said. “It’s with Silicon Valley, Silicon Alley, pockets in other cities, Google and eBay, just to name a few. It’s not just that the competition is fierce, but in today’s market, everything is transparent. Retail and fashion companies really need to get a hold of talent management.”