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Widening the net

Ecommerce skills are in short supply, pushing up salaries and causing employers to expand their search for new recruits.

The growing importance of ecommerce and multichannel in fashion businesses is reflected in the fact that roles in this area - particularly at senior level - are some of the most handsomely rewarded of any retail department. Unlike for other areas it is not possible to separate the roles for inside and outside London, as the majority of roles at all levels placed in the past year have been within London. A salary range is also given, as well as an average for each job level, as there is a wide range for some of these roles.

The average salary nears £72,000 for an ecommerce or multichannel director, though those in the most desired jobs can command more than £100,000. The rewards extend through the scale of positions down to search engine optimisation managers whose average salaries still beat that of a store manager.

James Roper, chief executive of etail industry body IMRG, says this is indicative of the importance of the roles, the shortage of experienced candidates, and the fact this area of retail is developing fast with constant innovation and changes in legislation to keep on top of. "Ecommerce is critical to fashion brands now, but the skills are changing all the time," he says.

The right skills are so in demand that fashion industry experience is not essential in the same way as for other areas of the industry, says Diana Moreno-Gomez, senior consultant for marketing, digital and creative at Fashion &Retail Personnel. She adds that those in senior roles are in a powerful position: "Finding someone with the technical skills, combined with strategy and team skills, is hard and that's why someone who has that experience can charge whatever they want."

Jessica Taylor, people director for lifestyle retailer White Stuff, says the newness of the roles causes uncertainty over pay. "It isn't as established as something like buying and merchandising so it is a little more unknown." She is part of a HR networking group that is comparing and benchmarking salaries across retail to ensure they are paying the right amount.

Accessories retailer Tie Rack has a new ecommerce team and was surprised at the salaries being commanded. Head of HR Natalie Whitehouse says: "It has been difficult to find someone on a salary that we wanted to pay. It's very expensive and accepting that it's going to cost £60,000 to £65,000 for an ecommerce manager has been a bit of a shock."

Menswear retailer Moss Bros Group is also building its ecommerce team after appointing an ecommerce director in the past couple of months. Bryony Leleux, head of HR at the retailer, says the salary inflation in the current market is similar to what was seen with the demand for IT staff in the run up to the millennium. "There aren't a lot of experienced people in the market and the ones that are good are getting hunted by everyone," she says.

Even lower-level staff, such as web designers, are able to dictate their price by charging freelance rates for their work. Roper says salary inflation is inevitable: "As the market is growing people are willing to pay more money so you do get people on the salary merry-go-round." However, Moreno-Gomez says any poaching that is going on is more that of senior managers at the £35,000 to £45,000 level as retailers look to quickly develop talent in this area, rather than ecommerce directors where to poach is largely too expensive. Leleux agrees: "It's a really small pool but those who are in positions at the senior level aren't jumping around because the people want to keep them," she says.

In fact, ecommerce bosses are finding they are able to move up the career ladder when they change job. This year, John Lewis head of online Jonathon Brown, and David Worby, director of Harrods Direct, have both made the step up to chief executive at M and M Direct and My-Wardrobe respectively.

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