The Retail Market Update 2018-2019

For a number of reasons, the New Year is often a time for career change. This makes the pre/post-Christmas period a busy time for Executive Search professionals. As usual, we are having numerous discussions with businesses who are looking to succession plan, to replace or upgrade executives, and, of course, to seek new ‘growth’ headcount.

So far this year only one of the businesses we are working with has asked that an internal candidate be included in their Search process. In addition, of the Searches conducted last year across the Retail, Consumer & Leisure Search Practice, we were surprised to discover that only 8% included internal candidates. According to Deloitte, this is a common phenomenon: “While 86% of leaders believe leadership succession planning is ‘urgent’ or ‘important’, only 14% believe they do it well”.*

Sound succession planning, with a balance of strong internal and external candidates, is vital for the stability and sustained growth of any organisation. Frequent changes in the economic and industry landscape mean the process must be flexible, and should be supported by a rigorous, objective external partner to assist with a thorough benchmarking: do candidates have the background and experience to address the seismic shifts in technology and customer expectations? For example, a  CEO once shared with me that a single successor was never enough – he aimed to have two to three internal and external succession options in view at all times. From our experience we have found that proactive succession planning supports development needs and aids retention. In addition we found that ‘stand out’ leaders tend to be those who are actively involved in succession planning, identifying the right internal candidates within their team as possible successors.

With broad service offerings across five different brands, Norman Broadbent Group is well positioned to support organisations as they succession plan and seek to mitigate ‘flight risk’.  This is in addition to advising on, and executing, rigorous Executive Searches involving internal and external talent.  The level and pace of change within consumer-facing sectors is unprecedented and is driving changes when it comes to talent acquisition. Last year, for example, some clients took the opportunity to hire outside of sector thus bringing in broader skillsets to challenge the status quo and enable greater diversity of thought.

Just as our clients are looking at talent acquisition differently, we too have developed a more agile approach to helping clients solve problems, and mitigate future risks. By working closely with our Research & Insight Practice, we can pre-inform clients about a specific talent landscape and significantly de-risk an Executive Search. Alternatively we can help a client scope out a new appointment by assessing whether the ideal candidate(s) exist, how much they will cost, whether they are open to a move, and ultimately, whether they will join the company. This approach saves valuable time, avoids any reputational risk associated with a failed Search, and ultimately saves money. Examples of where we have deployed Research & Insight successfully include:

  • Outside of sector pre-Search due diligence to identify a CFO for a listed retailer in turnaround
  • A capability assessment/talent benchmarking project for a listed hospitality group
  • A pipelining project to identify strong digital talent for a global F&B brand
  • A due-diligence exercise to define the profile/candidate brief for a Group Commercial Director


If you would like to find out more about how we can help you, or discuss a specific assignment, please do not hesitate to contact Lucie Shaw (Director – Retail, Consumer & Leisure Practice) on +44 (0) 20 7484 0022 or via for an initial confidential discussion.