Increased competition in UAE retail sector leads to recruitment of specialised staff from overseas

Author: Kirsty Tuxford | Date: 6 Apr 2016

But overall sector growth expected to slow after last year’s mall boom

Although growth in the UAE’s retail sector is expected to slow down this year, retail organisations are seeking more employees with specialised skills and experience – leading to fierce competition for talent.
“Retail brands have had to become more specialised in what they can offer to clients, constantly looking at how they can further differentiate themselves from competitors,” says Hortense Richard, managing consultant – retail fashion, luxury and cosmetics at Charterhouse, a recruitment firm. “The strategy has included recruiting niche staff with specific product backgrounds to provide a more personalised service, selecting prime locations and ensuring the products on offer cater for the style of all UAE demographics.”
Around half of Charterhouse's current retail roles require relocation from Europe or the USA, as there are too few candidates who have the specific industry experience required in the UAE. “Most roles require Arabic speakers, as we see more brands focus on the local clients,” explains Richard. “Additionally, we see more and more brands requiring candidates to travel to Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Kuwait, which helps the brand expand their coverage in an extremely competitive market.
“Retail and beauty brands – especially luxury ones – require candidates who can be brand ambassadors and build client relationships by offering outstanding and proactive customer service. We need experts, passionate about their clients and the brand, and who can ensure the highest level of client experience,” says Richard.
Retailers who provide goods and services to the UAE population performed reasonably well in 2015, but those dependant on tourists – especially Russian tourists who purchase fashion items – saw a dip in sales. Despite this, there is not yet any sign of redundancies in the luxury or fashion retail sectors.
“We have seen store-based positions within luxury and fashion focus more on hiring Arabic staff, instead of the previous trend of hiring Russian and Chinese speakers,” says Richard. “This is clearly down to the change in the tourism market in the UAE.
“And, with more senior-level positions, clients have been restructuring and opting not to replace staff in order to cut costs. However, there have still been no redundancies.”
Retailers expect new hires to be creative, passionate, exceptionally presented and to understand quality and excellence. Retail bosses are also investing more in customer service training, especially in the luxury brand sector.
“In-house customer service training is a huge focus for all retail organisations, and there has been a lot of investment in 'retail coaches' who move from store to store to make sure the customer service being provided is exceptional,” says Richard.
“The product and technical knowledge of some luxury brands is so important that many brands insist on sending their employees to head offices in Paris, London, Milan or New York to receive more training, visit the manufacturing area and actually meet the artisans who make the products.”