Report: UK fashion industry will require 60,000 new tech roles by 2020

Some 60,000 new digital and analytical roles will be urgently required in fashion by 2020, according to a new report, which says that the rise of digital shopping channels is creating demand for these new jobs.

The research, which was conducted by OC&C Strategy Consultants on behalf of the Fashion Retail Academy to determine the future for fashion retail recruitment, suggested that over half of UK retailers are already struggling to fill the roles required.

Sought-after roles will predominantly be in head office – where the report suggests there is an urgent need for better analytical and technically skilled workers. These job positions cover areas such as customer insight, digital content creation as well as CRM management and systems analysis.

OC&C found that one of the key drivers of the change is the adoption of social media channels to buy and engage with fashion, with the report showing 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.

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

In an attempt to counter this reported skills gap, the Fashion Retail Academy is launching a new initiative to inspire the next generation to pursue careers in fashion retail.

Lee Lucas, principal at the Fashion Retail Academy, commented: "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."

The academy is launching 'Retail Reimagined', which is an industry-led careers campaign to help inspire people to prepare for the available opportunities and aid retailers in their quest to acquire the talent they need for the future. An industry working group has been created to drive this work, involving OC&C and the government, as well as the academy's professional networks and prospects.

This month's London Fashion Week saw various examples of tech-led fashion displays, including Burberry's digital show experience. The UK fashion house's show was streamed live on its website once again, but for the first time it was also broadcast on Facebook Live, allowing users to watch the runway show in real time with the stream autoplaying in their feed.

It was also shown live on YouTube, WeChat and partner sites globally, while Burberry's launch on Facebook Messenger gave users a unique way to discover the collection in real time and access live customer service on the social messaging tool.

Jamie Merrick, head of industry insights at Demandware, a Salesforce company, said London Fashion Week is now more than simply about the clothing and the design, arguing it has become "firmly established as a showcase of innovation".

Merrick described it as "a hotbed for the world's biggest designers to combine art, technology and high-fashion to boldly stage their collections in new ways".

He added: "Take Martine Jarlgaard London's debut, which was delivered in the form of holograms using mixed reality headsets.

"Delivering a premium service is at the heart of capturing luxury shoppers and high-growth brands are more likely to emphasise the artistic elements of their collections using the latest digital innovations."