State of the Nation - Skills for the Future of Fashion Retail. #FutureOfFashion

Skills Report


60,000 new digital and analytical roles urgently required in fashion by 2020

  • The rise of digital shopping channels will result in 60,000 brand new technical and analytical roles needed in the UK fashion industry in the next five years
  • However, over half of UK retailers are already struggling to fill the roles required, according to a report published today by the Fashion Retail Academy and OC&C Strategy Consultants
  • To counter this skills gap, the Fashion Retail Academy is launching a new drive to inspire the next generation to pursue careers in fashion retail

On the eve of London Fashion Week, the Fashion Retail Academy (FRA) and OC&C Strategy Consultants have launched a report revealing that 50–60,000 cutting-edge fashion retail roles will be urgently required in the next five years, in order for UK fashion to keep up with the digital revolution transforming the industry.

These roles will predominantly be in head office – where there is an urgent need for better analytical and technically skilled workers to enter the industry. Analytical roles (especially customer insight), digital (content creation) and technical roles (CRM knowledge, systems analysis), merchandising, buying and supply chain management are at the forefront of the recruitment drive.

One of the key drivers of the change is the adoption of social media channels to buy and engage with fashion. The report reveals that 58% of 18 to 24 year olds purchase clothing based on seeing peers wearing an item on social media and 72% report an appetite for shopping directly from social platforms.

In response, retailers in the UK are expecting to spend 22% of their overall marketing budget on social media in the next five years - compared to an average 9% now - with over a quarter of retailers in the UK believing social media will significantly change their business model by 2020.

However, despite high demand for these skilled head office roles, over half of retailers (57%) are struggling to find the right people for these roles, revealing an urgent skills gap facing the UK’s fashion industry over the next five years.

This comes at an already disruptive time for the industry as the need to create leaner, more competitive operations will see over 160,000 roles across sales and shop floor support lost over the next ten years.  

Michael Jary, Partner at OC&C Strategy Consultants and co-author of the report, said:

“The retailers’ hiring struggle is very real. The industry is changing at a breakneck speed, but the pool of skilled candidates ready to step up to the challenge simply isn’t there.

“Many retailers have already recognised current skills gaps within their organisation, with three quarters of retailers providing in-house training for experienced staff and management to plug these gaps. However, all of the retailers we spoke with believe that the skills required in these areas would be entirely new in five years’ time, and supporting rigorous and evolving training programmes will be a challenge for retailers.

“In order to keep the UK at the forefront of the world’s fashion industry, retailers need to partner with educational institutions to develop bespoke training programmes which build the specific skills their employees need to learn.”

Lee Lucas, Principal at the Fashion Retail Academy, said:

“The fashion industry is becoming increasingly complex, requiring higher calibre skills than ever before. However, the future prospects of the industry are not yet armed with those analytical, technical and digital skills required to propel the industry forward. As an employer led college, the FRA is in a unique position to help bridge the skills gap for new joiners and help the industry upskill their existing workforce.

“Technical, merchandising, digital and analytical roles, which are expected to grow significantly, are already areas where retailers struggle to recruit. Graduates, and even GCSE and A-level students dreaming up their careers today simply do not know about the exciting roles that retail increasingly offers and requires. One of the things we are doing to address that is launching ‘Retail Reimagined’, our industry-led careers campaign to ensure the FRA can inspire people to prepare for opportunities available and help retailers acquire the talent they need to secure the future of the fashion industry in this country.

“In the meantime, we’ll also work to upskill those already in the industry through our existing and upcoming courses at FRA, establishing a new competency model to make certain that talent development remains focused on the industry’s imminent needs. Going further, we will not only a create a new framework for what our courses should cover, aligned to the competencies identified through the report, but also develop a new technical vocational standard which looks beyond the narrow view of current qualifications structures.

“We cannot singlehandedly haul the fashion retail industry into the digital age. That’s why we founded an industry working group to drive this work with fashion retail experts, OC&C Strategy Consultants, the government, our professional networks and prospects. We very much hope that our blueprint will help our vibrant industry fast forward to the future.”

To read the full report and the FRA response to it download here.

For further information, please contact:

Lee Lucas, Principal, Fashion Retail Academy

Tel. 0300 247 4000

Notes to Editors


This Fashion Retail Academy and OC&C study assesses the latest developments in the fashion retail industry in the way that merchandise is bought, sold and selected, establishing a link to the industry’s resource requirements and identifying risks to the industry in being able to attract and retain skilled talent.

The information in this report is based on in-depth qualitative interviews and a major online survey of more than £20bn of the value of the UK fashion industry – c.30%. The views of more than 50 retailers have been represented, covering the trends impacting the fashion industry today, the skill gaps that are emerging and how these skill gaps could be addressed.


The Fashion Retail Academy is a unique employer led college with charitable status founded by industry, for industry, in 2005, in response to an overwhelming gap for skilled new entrants. The FRA was founded as the trailblazer for the National Skills Academy model which paved the way for the many that followed. The FRA is supported by more than 140 leading UK retailers.

For more information about FRA, please visit


OC&C is a leading global strategy consulting firm that brings clear thinking to the most complex issues facing today's management teams. OC&C's client roster includes some of the world's most respected companies throughout the retail, consumer goods, media, private equity and business services sectors.

For more information about OC&C Strategy Consultants, please visit