Tech gives retail sector the ‘kiss of life’

27th April 2023 | Phoebe Dobke

Retail is the third biggest recruiter for tech talent, behind big tech and banking according to a new report from recruiter Robert Walters.

Demand for tech jobs in the retail space increased by 16% in Q1 of this year, and the number of vacancies in the past 12 months topped pre-pandemic levels by 59%.

The development of technology in all its forms, from apps to VR, has given the UK’s retail industry ‘the kiss of life’ with tech roles now representing a quarter of all new retail vacancies.

The findings have also revealed that the retail sector has been slow to innovate behind other industries, with that gap now quickly closing.

Mat Knutton, Associate Director of Robert Walters, said: “The arrival of tech has been the retail industry’s saving grace. From fintech driving online sales, automation software solving skills shortages and saving on delivery times, to augmented reality allowing customers to virtually try-on products – reducing the number of customer returns.

“All of these transformations are futureproofing retail and giving the UK’s largest single employer a chance to stay in the game. Employment won’t necessarily decrease, the roles will ultimately change, with tech and digital being at the core.”

Virtual try-ons (VTOs) are being used by the likes of Nike, Ray-Ban and L’Oréal for customers to test items before they purchase. While Hugo Boss have recently trialled a Picto-fit Mirror, where customers can try-on pieces only available online through a tablet and smart mirror combination now available at all of their UK stores.

The findings have showcased early signs of hiring for more developers, engineers, and infrastructure specialists across retail, although it is too early to identify whether this will be sustained.

Perhaps the biggest indicator of whether we will see more of AR & VR in the retail sector is the rise in demand for tech and IT consultants – up by +27% this quarter. Could retailers be sourcing external insight and specialists to weigh up what the next digital gamechanger will be for their company and sector?


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