A huge proportion of the UK’s workforce comes under the retail umbrella, with roughly 2.8 million employees across 300,000 retail outlets.
An important part of retail’s high-turnover labour force is made up of young workers. For many young people, retail offers a route into a long term career that would be unattainable in other industries.
To date, nearly one million disadvantaged young workers have been helped into employment by The Prince’s Trust, a charity pioneered by Prince Charles 41 years ago.
The charity’s Retail Leadership Group, which helps young people into the retail sector, has recently appointed retail veteran Andrew Jennings as its chairman.
Boasting a fruitful retail career in senior positions at the likes of House of Fraser, Harrods, Saks Fifth Avenue and Woolworths, few people are better placed to advise the next generation of retail employees.
“I’ve been a retailer for more years than I care to remember. I’ve had the great privilege of running some of the world’s great retail brands over six countries and a couple of different hemispheres,” Jennings said.
“When I came back to the UK some three years ago I decided to set up a portfolio of board roles and advisory roles. I also wanted to get involved in one or two charities, my charity of choice in the UK was The Prince’s Trust.
“I always hire people for their attitudes and then train them for the skills that are required.”
“I went to an event and I heard a young person speak about how they really couldn’t get a job, and I think it was Asda that had given them an opportunity to start on the employment ladder. They spoke so passionately about this I wanted to find out more.
“I joined the retail leadership board and then at the end of last year I was asked if I’d like to take over as the chair.
“I was thrilled to do so because I really felt that what I’d seen and supported of the last couple of years really made me energised and see how young people could be really assisted.”
Since his appointment in February, Jennings has been focused on recruiting retailers to work with The Prince’s Trust and produce a leadership team that could expand its work.
“Together my sense was that we would have the bench strength to really put together the opportunities to grow retail sponsorship and open the door with other retailers to get more education on what The Prince’s Trust was all about,” he said.
“Our leadership team really want to change the lives of probably over 8000 young people every year. It really can be a life changer for many young people who can’t get a job who are distressed or frustrated in what they’re doing.”
Jennings’ passion comes from personal experience, as at the beginning of his 45-year retail career he saw firsthand just what it had to offer a young enthusiastic worker.
“I got into retail at the age of 18, I started as a trainee, I had a lot of opportunities,” Jennings recalled.
“It is a business that, providing you’re prepared to work unbelievably hard and get stuck into things, then you can succeed.
“It is an industry where you can carve your own career. People ask me what the secret to a successful retail career is and I say there is only one way, and that is be prepared to work hard.
“I like to spend time on the shop floor talking to the staff and sharing where I can and hearing from them. If you don’t have work that can be soul destroying.