By Nicki Wilson - Managing Director at Genie
The fashion industry across the Middle East has been evolving dramatically and this has been stimulated even further with the onset of the pandemic. This was a time for big brands to move quickly, being able to adapt in a consumer world that still needed fashion. And was also a golden opportunity for new brands to emerge on the scene.
Lock down, restrictions and store closures all added to the recent woes of the Middle Easts largest retail groups and growing brands. But many were quick to adapt across technological advances, going online, identifying consumer needs, marketing well and increasing their own profitability. There were many brands that were born out of the crisis and many that made a name for themselves identifying a need and a shift in consumer demands.
As someone who is in the thick of what is going on in terms of retail changes at Genie (we recruit for everyone from La Senza, Nike, H&M, Victoria Secret, Tribe71 etc) I knew change was coming, Dubai had been on its way to becoming the new ‘Fashion Hub’ as stated in many publications over the years but in the past 18 months is when we really saw it happen.
Some of the first calls we had during lockdown were to request buyers who had developed their own products, talent who had bought from the Far East and candidates who had worked for fast fashion brands. An area that is always in demand, this took a new turn when retailers made even bigger moves to produce/source their own products, reducing the red tape of decision making but also strategising to increase profitability and flexibility for the Middle East’s demographic, which is unlike anywhere else in the world.
The next calls were for e-commerce and digital talent. Some of the retail groups had made these transitions already but the ones that had not were quick to manoeuvre themselves into the digital world. Ensuring consumers could still shop with a click of a button even if they could not leave their house! Over a period of six months, we saw a lot of brands looking for e-commerce expertise with absolute urgency. Digital marketing and digital performance became something everyone needed, and we saw traditional marketing profiles take a back seat to profiles that understood digital marketing and even having requests for profiles who had big followings on social media platforms.
Hand in hand with everything online next came last mile logistics! A term I hear almost daily now, as it is not just used for fashion, it is a much in demand area for F&B, Tech and any business which has a delivery function.
Strategy and the rise of interpreting data was something that has always been there, but we now see a lot more of this in fashion, identifying a need for these profiles to be the brain of the business and its strategy. Often supporting the C-suite with decision making. I believe this is something that’s going to really grow, in other regions data and consumer behaviour was always a hot topic. Across the GCC data is now developing more rapidly from digital transactions and becoming more mature. I foresee the requirement to be able to understand the consumer and behavioural patterns will see data analytics, strategy, consumer insights all become critical areas in the search for talent.
We saw new brands emerging and locally developed brands become a hot topic. With less barriers to entry and easier ways to self-promote we saw more companies quickly becoming well-known brands. We have also seen a shift from big brand retailers adopting local brands in store and understanding with customer loyalty comes local brand loyalty too. Several sustainable brands and purpose driven products have really benefited from the past year, and I believe we will see sustainable fashion everywhere come 2022 and beyond.
Traditional brick and mortar retail became entertainment zones with quicker service and an omnichannel experience, internal training will be a key part in this development and candidates with training skills will be in demand.
Key skills in demand:
· Digital Marketing / Digital Performance / Tech savviness
· Social Media skills
· Last mile & logistics
· Buying & product development
· Understanding sustainability & eco conscious brands
· Analytical minds (Big 4 / consulting / data analytics)
Traditional roles and brick and mortar experience will always be required across the Retail industry but brushing up on the above will put you in a strong position for the future and keep your skills current.