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The UK’s best retail employers: the results


Following on from our article last month, which asked what makes a great employer brand, we review the results of our recent survey of over 1,400 readers and visitors to retailappointment.co.uk in which we asked them who they regarded as the best retail employer in the UK. Whilst some results may surprise you, some of the results may not be quite so obvious…

Last month The Retail Appointment reviewed the concept of what makes an attractive brand for job seekers, concluding with the revelation that it would be conducting a significant employer brand survey of job seekers as they asked ‘which retailer do you think has the best employment brand?’ With 50 of the UK’s most popular retail brands to choose from, John Lewis, perhaps unsurprisingly, came out on top with 41% of the votes.

We have often heard consumers praise John Lewis for its service and the quality of its products, as well as its overall integrity as a brand. However, from an employment point of view the brand is capturing the imagination of job seekers throughout both the UK and the world.

Staff receive an annual bonus based on the profits of the business; the more effort they put in, the more they get back. John Lewis is living up to its expectations, which have been built upon a solid foundation since 1864.
One vital reason behind John Lewis’ growing popularity throughout past decades is trust. Consumers trust the brand to deliver products from washing machines, towels, door handles, sheepskin boots and even their lunch; employees trust the brand to look after their livelihoods, hopes, and aspirations.

The results

Whilst it may come as little surprise that John Lewis came out on top of the Retail Appointment’s survey, it is worth highlighting the significant gap between them and the subsequent brands; Marks & Spencer with 12% of the vote, followed by Arcadia with 8%. One significant omission from the top three most desirable retail employer’s brands is Apple (6%).

From a consumer point of view, Apple has often sat on top of the tree, gazing down as competitors such as Samsung attempt to out-innovate the legacy left by Steve Jobs. However, Apple has experienced a 10% drop in popularity and is no longer even in the top 20 brands in the US at this time.

The Retail Appointment survey saw Selfridges just behind Apple with 5% of the votes, with Harrods on 4%, and House of Fraser, Waitrose, and Tesco all with 3%. Next completed the top ten with 2% of employees stating them as the most desirable retail employer’s brand.

This is a crucial time for the UK jobs market. With a general election looming, employers should be assessing how manifesto promises could potentially impact their brand and the traits of both its employees and job seekers, not to mention the consumer.

The element of trust in a brand

Last year was John Lewis’ 150th year in business and this presents an opportunity to review how the story behind a brand and an understanding of where it has come from can provide tell-tale signs of where it is likely to head in the future.

As human beings we inherently understand the importance of trust, and as employees this perception is no different. A brand can lay claim to various facts and statistics and all the testimonials they want; at the end of the day if they don’t command trust then the future looks bleak.

To put it simply, trust delivers results for brands. Stability, such as surviving the World Wars, numerous recessions, global depressions and changes to worldwide economic performances on a global scale have also been a vital component to making John Lewis the brand that it is today.

Brand engagement only works if there is employee trust in new values. But trust cannot be won through good internal marketing alone, although it undoubtedly helps.
Leaders need to be seen to be involved, to be actually leading the programme and above all, to be trusted. We must remember though, that leaders include all supervisory managers and team leaders not just senior management, chairman and CEOs.

Trust is a vital issue when values and behaviours are being amended or changed. So being able to buy into what the leaders in the business say and do is the lead indicator when it comes to measuring the success of strategic brand engagement.

The Retail Appointment surveyed over 1,400 job seekers, providing valuable insight into their thought patterns and mind-sets. It would be naïve to say we are ‘surprised’ by John Lewis streaking ahead of the remaining other 49 retailers, because in all honesty, we aren’t.

It’s not a case of what the others are doing wrong, but more of a case of tipping our caps to John Lewis and applauding them for getting so much right for so long. They have raised the bar and by doing so, we are seeing more and more UK retailers demonstrating innovation in certain areas of their organisations such as within training and development and gender pay, which are having a positive impact on staff retention levels.

This is why the UK retail sector is one of the most inspiring in the world and I fully expect it to play a pivotal role in helping close the gap of the ticking time-bomb that is youth unemployment.