As with all businesses, the retail industry has been affected by the pandemic. The physicality of shopping; picking up groceries, trying on clothes or a free makeup trial have all come to a stop for now and the foreseeable future. Recruiting in retail is likely to face changes as well. 

On the financial front, store closures and bankruptcy have become more and more common. Despite that, not all is dire. Companies like the Very group which offers a wide range of merchandise for women, men and children reported a 36% growth in its online sales in the second quarter of the year. 


In an interview, Very’s CEO Henry Birch mentioned that the pandemic pushed them to become a more technology and data-led company. This included them opening an automated warehouse that allows for faster processing of customer orders. Very was also able to create new jobs and made a move to recruit 150 people. 

Because of the pandemic, how employers hire and manage workers is also expected to see changes in the near future. Here are some predictions for recruiting in retail in 2021. 

1. Multi-channel recruiting 

Retailers are going to be competing for qualified employees. In order to get the top picks, they are going to need to go beyond the regular recruitment channels. 

As the number of millennial and Gen Z workers increases across the world, employers in the retail space need to tailor their recruitment tactics to appeal to this demographic. Job boards will likely be augmented by a reliance on social media and social media ads as avenues to recruit. 

A recruiter might post a job ad on LinkedIn for its positioning as the social network about careers. They would then follow that up with a post on Twitter to spread the word and another on the Careers tab on their Facebook page. 

Making greater use of current employees

Another channel recruiters in retail might lean on more is employer referral programs where current employees are incentivized to recommend qualified people to fill job posts. In the fast-paced retail industry of the future, a referral program reduces hiring and recruitment time. As saving money will still be important for retailers in 2021, such programs will also work as ways to bring labour costs down. 

Narrower geographic scale

Despite the emergence of COVID vaccines, The World Health Organisation warns that prevention measures like social distancing will not immediately go away. This will mean that recruiters will limit their geographic search, giving locals a higher chance of getting hired. Some companies might even look from within the company and instead train the staff they have when promotions open up.

2. A faster interview process

By 2019, the UK retail industry employed almost 3million people. A direct result of social distancing measures is the increase in demand for those retail workers. This need was specifically seen in fulfilment centres at peak times such as during the holidays.

In 2021, all retail employers will be competing for this same pool of workers. One way to get ahead is to institute a faster interview and hire process. 

In addition to remote interviews, same-day hiring – where workers are interviewed and hired all in one day – might become more common. This will limit the likelihood of qualified workers being snapped up by the competition in the space it takes the company to make a decision. This tactic can also be used to mitigate the burden of the high turnover rate common in the retail industry. 

3. An even stronger reliance on technology and e-commerce services

Uptake of digital services in retail was on the rise even before the pandemic. It enabled, amongst other things, a widening of the customer base; allowing someone many miles away to browse a store, make an order and have it delivered with ease. 

In 2021, even more operations in retail will be done with technology. This will include the entire recruitment chain, from advertising to interviewing and even managing workers once they have been hired.

In summary

Recruiting in retail is poised to continue changing in 2021. Companies who embrace it by hiring faster, and better can turn challenges into opportunities and stand a higher chance of surviving.