Beginners luck

Once you land a design role there is a good career ladder and pay prospects, but getting on the first rung is hard.

Those lucky enough to secure a design position will find that average starting salaries are low, at between £16,000 and £17,000 in and outside of London. However, average London salaries rise to £32,533 for designer posts, and the average hits £86,567 at design/creative director level, with peak average salaries outside of London just behind at £77,651.

The low starting salaries are caused by the mismatch between supply and demand of design jobs. Emma Jones, senior people manager at lifestyle retailer White Stuff, says: "Design roles are always popular and advertising in these areas will always yield a high response, regardless of the position."

Echoing those sentiments, Marie-Anne Labidi, corporate HR development director at lingerie brand Chantelle, says the company experiences similar. "Design roles are the most sought-after positions and unsurprisingly the ones we get the most interest in, making them the most competitive," she says.

The problem facing many design graduates is there simply aren't enough jobs to go around. Charlotte Ayres, senior consultant for design, production, technical and sales at Fashion& Retail Personnel, tells Drapers of the 23positions she currently has on offer, just two are design-related.

Liz Jewitt-Cross, HR and business transformation director at lifestyle brand Joules, says while the standard of candidates coming out of fashion retail-related degree courses at universities and fashion colleges is good, they do require additional training. "The level is generally high. Although, candidates' knowledge is often under developed in processes, systems, and ways of working, and sometimes they perhaps underestimate the effort needed to develop and deliver a range. These are all things that the right experience will help develop though," she says.

Salary levels are being driven by factors including the economy and the pay brackets set by the high street's big players, such as Marks & Spencer and John Lewis, forcing others to review their salary and benefits packages in order to remain competitive, or missing out on the best candidates. "We benchmark across all sectors of the fashion industry and also look at local salaries, as well as London rates and large city salaries and benefits offered by competing organisations," concludes Jewitt-Cross.