By Kate Berry and Sally Blaxall, QHQ
Expanding into Europe is a common goal for many UK fashion brands - which although attractive for financial and trade reasons, can be more challenging than perhaps initially perceived. Topshop and Topman, Ted Baker, Dr. Martens, Superdry, Burberry, Hunter and Mulberry are all brands who are currently establishing themselves in Europe.
QHQ, as technical specialists providing expertise for the global fashion industry, have broad experience of working with brands, retailers and manufacturers across the UK and Europe and are aware of the issues from both sides.
We ask the question: how these brands, who are all influential in the UK fashion industry can establish themselves in Europe, not just as retailers but also and equally importantly as employers - and how they can address those recruitment challenges?”
The first hurdle is often the British brands’ reputation in the local market. A brand may not be well known in the target EU country - and if a brand is unknown and ‘foreign,’ a job posting may attract far less candidates than expected. Brands can address this is by investing in that country with marketing, PR and social media to raise brand awareness and thereby becoming more ‘visible’ and attractive to candidates. For example, in the Netherlands, Dr Martens has a strong presence already, whereas Hunter boots are relatively new and unknown. The influence of social media is very important for new brands to establish a European presence and building a following via Instagram and SnapChat is important to success.
When it comes to advertising, job postings really need to make sense to the target European market. UK brands need to understand the importance of adapting job titles and descriptions to suit the country they are searching in. For example, in the Netherlands instead of the job title, ‘Concession Manager’, the appropriate title would be ‘Shop in Shop’ Manager. Using the correct title is vital as it reflects how candidates will search for a job online. If a candidate is uncertain what the actual job is because they don’t understand the job title, they are far less likely to make an application.
Sally Blaxall, Director QHQ: “UK brands need to translate job advertisements into the local language clearly and make sure the translated versions make total sense, especially in Germany. Google Translated adverts are not enough, they don’t have the correct tone or terminology. Candidates won't apply to a poorly-translated job description no matter how well-recognised or attractive the brand is so this is an area worth investing in.”
In QHQ’s experience it can sometimes be challenging to attract candidates in Europe to work for British or American brands because they are not perceived as ‘good’ employers as European brands. In Nordic countries, for example, people have a very good work/life balance: a good quality of life, they go to the gym, they see their families and they are satisfied with their jobs. UK and US brands cannot attract candidates in the same way as they do in their home markets by offering extra benefits and flexi-time. Instead they need to ‘sell’ the jobs on stability, prestige and good salaries as candidates may be wary of UK/US employers.
Kate: “UK brands have to give more consideration for strength of economy and unemployment rates in different regions - for example, there is record low unemployment in Germany, therefore attracting candidates is more difficult - there are simply less people looking for jobs. And the Nordics' high employment rate makes candidates very selective due to increased job security.”
FashionUnited is an international business to business online fashion platform created in 1999 by Lennard Minderhoud. Based in the Netherlands, the platform offers fashion news, fashion jobs, the statistics of the industry and a Fashion Education Network. Emma Robbs, Senior Manager at FashionUnited: "We have noticed a trend in the number of companies posting roles across multiple countries and the number of multi-posted jobs has tripled in the past two years, particularly for roles that require language skills or continental experience. Fashion companies appear to be looking overseas for talent, while candidates are looking overseas for more opportunities.”
UK brands also need to consider how their job description sizes up against the better-known competition if they’re new to a market. Many brands are opening in the same cities and are recruiting for the same talent. It’s a very competitive market within Europe - so brand visibly is vital. It can be more expensive to advertise and boost job postings on European sites than it is in the UK, so getting the advertising and marketing right from the start is key to effective expansion strategies. With investment in the right areas, UK brands will find their initial expansion into Europe is more successful and will bring faster and better results.