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Sun 1 Apr 2007 12:39 PM

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Skills shortage crippling ME retailers

Region's lack of experienced managers putting retail brands off moving to Mideast.

A shortage of skilled retail managers in the Middle East has become so acute that it is deterring some retail brands from setting up in the region. The problem is affecting all areas of the retail sector, and is one of the biggest threats to the growth of companies operating in the region, according to Kevin Edmonds, managing director of R3, a recruitment agency that recently set up in Dubai.

"A lot of consultancies have spoken to me about bringing additional brands over but they are just very nervous that without the management infrastructure, it will all fall to pieces. It's one of the biggest issues and threats to retailer' expansion in the region," Edmonds said.

Many leading retailers operating in the Middle East usually recruit managers from Western countries, but with the rapid pace of development in the region, there is now a need for retailers to find alternative means of filling key vacancies, according to Edmonds. "The retailers who are developing and growing in the region are usually looking to Western areas of the world where traditionally the training is very good and there is a good quality of people," he said. "Because the region is growing at such a great rate the demand is outstripping supply massively and so there really isn't the quantity or quality of the people in the local area, so the companies have to look further a field."

In a bid to plug management gaps, many well-known retail brands in the region are resorting to promoting existing staff beyond their capabilities and training. "They are over promoting people who are already in the market so they are relying on their existing people to step up to a bigger role than they have been doing, which is OK for a short period of time but these people often don't have the skills set they need, and that is the way they have been handling it," Edmonds added.

While Edmonds expects the problem to get worse in the next couple of years, he thinks retailers can improve the situation by fostering talent from within their own ranks. "There is a big mindset gap in the Middle East that says people who work at shop floor level aren't able to progress. I think it has to change because otherwise there is going to be this ever-increasing pressure to find people and there is no organic growth in companies at the moment," he said.

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