In My View by Eric Musgrave: How Suit Direct sells itself to new employees
Who fancies a career in retailing these days?
Menswear specialist Baird Group believes it has found a way to make shop work attractive work. I have been rather impressed by its new approach to recruitment, launched last month, that invites potential staff to “join a movement”.
Which other retailers are making such a concerted effort to scoop up the best candidates?
The decimation of some traditional high streets during the COVID crisis did nothing to enhance the reputation or attractiveness of working in a shop.
The effective disappearance of Debenhams, the many Arcadia chains, the Edinburgh Woollen Mill group and the rest, plus the well-publicised branch closures by such stalwarts as Marks & Spencer and John Lewis might have given the impression that retailing was almost a twilight industry.
Despite employing millions – often taking up a person’s entire working life – shop work has long been tarred with the idea it is what you do if you cannot get a proper job.
On a more positive side, the cleaning-up of the UK’s retail estate during the pandemic has presented ambitious retail companies with plenty of opportunities to extend their chains.
A couple or so years ago Baird Group CEO Mark Cotter told me he did not buy into the idea that physical retailing was dead or that the suit was dead.
I agreed with him wholeheartedly on both points.
In consequence, the group’s tailoring-focused Suit Direct chain has been making the most of more obliging landlords, more flexible leases and a strong post-lockdown demand for smart suits for men.
It now has almost 50 branches, with up to 10 more in the pipeline for this year, and they need good, committed and knowledgeable staff. Buying tailoring requires assistance and service.
“So many of us who work in menswear retail know what a great place it is,” says Baird’s marketing and sales director Kevin Stone, “but to some outsiders it does have an image problem. We decided we needed a new approach and a new inviting message.”
The personnel and marketing teams at Baird’s Leeds head office put their heads together and created the simple but compelling recruitment campaign that underlines Suit Direct is taking a fresh and unstuffy attitude to selling men’s tailoring, while offering a well-paid career with plenty of prospects for job satisfaction, personal development and advancement.
The approach is spelled out on the group’s website - https://www.suitdirect.co.uk/careers - under the heading, “Don’t just work in a shop, join a movement”, with “We are changing the face of suits” as the follow-up line.
“We’re ditching suit traditions and gearing up for the new era of suit wearing. We say no to normal and want each customer wearing a suit that’s 100% them,” the website explains.
“Join us for a job that is 100% you” is another enticing banner.
In addition to the website messages, Suit Direct is using a targeted paid strategy on Instagram and Facebook in areas where it is opening new stores or it has vacancies across its estate. A paid approach on LinkedIn is also part of the strategy.
It certainly beats sticking a hand-written A4 sheet in the shop window stating Staff Wanted.
In October a second phase of the recruitment will be launched, featuring videos of current staff explaining why they enjoy their job and want to see new colleagues joining.
“After just three weeks, the reaction and effect has been really positive. With phase one of the campaign our team members can share the recruitment images and messages seen on the website,” says Stone. “In phase two they really will become the spokespeople for the business and our best advocates.”
Suit Direct’s biggest-ever consumer advertising campaign, launched this week, will further raise the profile of the retailer, which has its 50 or so stores split between high street units and discount outlets.
Recent research from website Glassdoor, on which current and former employees rate and comment on companies, underlined that companies delivering high levels of employee satisfaction commonly displayed four key attributes: they offered strong career progression opportunities, supportive management, a friendly social environment and a level of autonomy to staff working across all parts of their organisations, from the shopfloor to HQ.
I applaud Suit Direct for trying something different to pull in retail talent. Is anyone else making new efforts to secure new retailing staff? I would love to hear what’s working for companies.