Stronger recruitment year ahead as large retailers launch new projects

Large retailers are recruiting in greater numbers because they are starting more projects that require a mix of IT skills than they were a year ago, according to consultants.

Large retailers are recruiting in greater numbers because they are starting more projects that require a mix of IT skills than they were a year ago, according to consultants.

Demand for business analysts and project managers has been greater than for other technical skills. Retailers are paying about 10% more for these skills than they were in 2005.

Competition from other sectors has also helped increase the salaries that are being offered.

With Arcadia, Asda and Debenhams all expanding their e-commerce operations, the competition for developers has greatly increased, according to Rethink Recruitment director Michael Bennett. "Retailers need web developers, and that means the .net Framework. We get a lot less calls for Java skills," he said.

Retailers are searching for different specialities and need web designers and developers to overhaul front-end systems.

People with customer relationship management skills are needed to make middle-office systems interact with web front-end platforms, according to Harry Dhebar, senior consultant at recruitment firm Hudson.

Companies are also hiring people to develop their back-end databases. The databases are being made more scalable and they are being mined to provide retailers with more information about their customers.

Dhebar said, "For e-commerce operations, people can get involved if they have experience of loyalty schemes, supply chain systems or business intelligence tools."

A spate of large mergers has meant that some retailers are recruiting people to either consolidate systems or extract business intelligence from disparate systems.

This year Mosaic Fashions has acquired Rubicon Retail and Alliance Unichem has merged with Boots.

However, the salaries and contractor rates being paid by retailers remain far behind sectors such as financial services.

Computer People's associate director Richard Chorley said, "The recruitment into the retail sector is consistent. It has not ballooned in the way it has in other sectors."

The big recruiters

Companies such as Marks & Spencer and Tesco are recruiting business analysts and project managers to work on key projects as they overhaul business processes and enter new markets.

Marks & Spencer is hiring business analysts for its project with Amazon to replace its e-commerce platform. The retailer wants the new platform to increase online sales from £100m to £250m a year within the next two years.

Tesco is hiring people as it moves into new markets. It has recruited people throughout the year for Tesco Direct, the online shopping channel that Tesco hopes will enable it to overtake Argos as the UK's largest non-food retailer.

The big firms are recruiting more heavily than they were during 2005 when sales were slower. The most successful retailers are the ones most likely to recruit people to IT positions.

Only three retailers - Marks & Spencer, Primark and Tesco - have increased their market share in clothing this year.

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