The UK fashion industry will require around 60,000 people in analytical, digital, technical, merchandising and supply chain management departments by 2020 due to the rise in digital shopping channels, says a recent report. Analytical roles are likely to grow by more than 50 per cent, while technical roles are expected to grow by 30 to 40 per cent. Adoption of social media platforms to buy and engage with fashion is identified as one of the key drivers of this change, according to the report published by the Fashion Retail Academy (FRA) and OC&C Strategy Consultants. About 58 per cent of 18 to 24 year olds purchase clothing after seeing peers wearing an item on social media and 72 per cent report an appetite for shopping directly from social platforms. The rise in the digital platforms is expected to lead UK retailers to spend 20 per cent of their overall marketing budget on social media in the next five years as opposed to 9 per cent as of now, says the report. Over a quarter of retailers in the UK believe that social media will significantly change their business model by 2020. “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. 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,” said Michael Jary, Partner at OC&C Strategy Consultants and co-author of the report. In spite of the high demand for skilled head office roles, over 57 per cent retailers in the UK are struggling to find the right people for these roles, revealing an urgent skills gap over the next five years. To address this challenge, FRA has announced a campaign called ‘Retail Reimagined’ to help retailers acquire the talent that they need. Some new courses will also be introduced by FRA to help the existing employees of the industry learn new skills. “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 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 help retailers acquire the talent they need to secure the future of the fashion industry in this country,” said Lee Lucas, principal, FRA. However, the need to create competitive operations will result in a loss of over 160,000 roles across sales and shop floor support over the next ten years, predicts the report.