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Fashion Sector Trains Retail Employees

8 October, 2010

Shopping mall L'Illa Diagonal, Barcelona

Fashion sector businesses, faced with a need for new professional profiles, are ensuring they have specific vocational training.

New ways of managing purchases, planning and designing sales points and analysing business profits, together with the proliferation of distribution channels and ever-increasing speeds of internationalisation processes, are just some of the factors conditioning the constant changes in today’s fashion retail sector. An exhaustive list is impossible to draw up because the metamorphosis in the retail sector in general is even more marked in the case of fashion houses.

Industry businesses are under pressure (or facing the challenge, depending on how you look at it) to anticipate and update consumer requirements. This calls for strategic decision-making right across a company’s departments and has a clear impact on its human resources team: there is a need for new fashion professionals who are up to addressing these changes.

New Requirements

Keeping abreast with the knowledge needed to run a fashion business is no mean feat, particularly when the changes are constant and, as occurs today, show no sign of stopping. “Fashion’s evolution and vigour in areas such as retail marketing, strategic merchandising and marketing channels bears no comparison with that of other retail areas,” says Clara Canela, from consultancy firm Talentiam. This probably explains the emergence in recent years of professional profiles that were previously unheard-of in the retail sector, such as visual merchandisers and product managers, in addition to the skills that internationalisation departments have to boost in order to deliver on a label’s globalisation processes.

As Ms Canela says, “The exponential growth in retail fashion is producing rapid professional progression”. Sita Murt CEO Jordi Balcells adds: “The sector has changed very quickly and is still shifting. When that happens, it is hard to predict what the future holds, but we do know there are a number of professional profiles that will become necessary, regardless of how we evolve”.

A Sector on the Move

Conscious of this dynamic, firms such as Mango, Sita Murt, Desigual and Tous began to approach the retail training sector years ago to put together new courses to respond to their requirements or to adapt existing ones. Universities and businesses have designed vocational training courses to prepare retail fashion-sector employees. Experts say they are particularly concerned with preventing the retail sector from following other sectors that have seen business competitiveness called into question by a shortfall of qualified personnel.

The University of Barcelona and the human resources consultancy firm that specialises in fashion, Talentiam, have been training employees from well-known firms and from other retail branches keen to specialise in retail fashion for the past two years. Together they offer a master’s in retail fashion business management. The training offer also covers vocational training for retail fashion employees who join firms at a very young age with no prior university education. This is a situation Ms Canela says the retail sector has experienced and is probably explained, according to sector sources, because until very recently sales team training was not a priority. But today more than ever, fashion sector businesses are highly aware of the clout they can have if they build up strong sales teams and prioritize their education. Such is the case of Sita Murt, which has increased its efforts in this area through inhouse training.

Abroad

Within the framework of the present economic situation, among all the challenges facing retail fashion, the internationalisation of fashion businesses is probably one of the most important today. The ECSI School of International Business offers a master’s in international retail to train employees to make the leap to other countries. “The retail sector is now responsible for positioning labels on the market as well as selling them. Retailers have assumed a key strategic position as well as an operational one,” says ESCI course coordinator, Rosa Colomer. With respect to internationalisation, Jordi Balcells says there are still not enough employees with a good knowledge of languages and who are willing to move. “If we could find good professionals with languages it would be easier to expand the label to other countries,” he says. In this regard, Rosa Colomer says that until quite recently the sales fabric was characterised by small family businesses. “A significant number of these companies have grown in size and importance and this has translated into new professional requirements in the retail sector,” she says.

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