Job vacancies for frontline staff in Hong Kong's retail stores are as high as 8.8 per cent, according to the results of a recent survey by the Hong Kong Retail Management Association (HKRMA).
At the same time, the number of mainland Chinese visitors grew by 23.9 per cent in 2011, with over 28 million of them - and billions of their yuans - coming to Hong Kong, largely attracted by the city's shops and low-tax retail regime.
"I don't know one retailer in Hong Kong, whether they are a luxury or a mainstream retailer, who's not looking for shop staff, or who doesn't have a problem with losing shop staff to competitors," says Dilal Ranasinghe, associate director, commerce and industry, at recruitment consultants Argyll Scott International. "This, in turn, causes wage inflation and a lot of volatility in the market."
"Retail staff with very strong Mandarin skills and a network of regular customers - mainland Chinese or Hong Kong customers - are probably the most `in-demand' skill sets in the luxury retail market," he adds.
This demand is being driven by a huge influx of retailers of all descriptions, says Karen Fifer, global sector leader, retail managing partner, consumer markets practice Asia Pacific, at Heidrick & Struggles. Demand is particularly high for candidates with experience of working amid a downturn, she adds.
"[The challenge is] finding candidates in marketing or any other function who have the capability of managing through good and bad times, because, unfortunately, in Asia, most of them have only known buoyant talent cycles, and buoyant shopping cycles - there's been no downturn in the China market," Fifer notes.
Senior retail roles have also become more demanding to cope with the complexities of the sector. "I think the job of the marketer has become very multifaceted, very strategic and, yet, very tactical, because to me, a true marketer looks at the entire supply chain - from how our brand is positioned all the way down to how we train our sales girls and our shop assistants to service our customers more meaningfully," she says.
"It's becoming a very complex job. I find that finding marketers in re