Anybody travelling past a supermarket in the south east these days cannot fail to notice that it is almost certainly plastered with posters or banners advertising the job vacancies it currently has open.
As a recruitment tactic, this verges on the desperate. And it is one of the more noticeable signs of a problem that is proving to be a real headache for retailers of all sizes across the country.
But one thing has always puzzled me about this. If recruiting is so hard, particularly in areas of relatively low unemployment, why do retailers appear either happy with their high levels of staff turnover, or seemingly unable to do anything about them?
A report published at this week's ECR conference claims turnover rates across Europe are running at 30%. Now I know this is a European average, so probably needs treating with some caution. Nonetheless, as statistics go, it is pretty mindboggling. And so are the costs involved. As our story on page six shows, the researchers estimate that it typically costs £1,400 to replace a checkout operator and £23,000 to replace a store manager (I guess those recruitment posters and banners are expensive to print). We will have plenty more on this research next week.
But before you can retain people, you have to recruit them. And, in this respect, retailing still has a serious image problem that it is struggling to shake off. As Stuart Townsend, who runs Sainsbury's store on London's Cromwell Road, puts it so eloquently in our salary survey on page 50: "It always seems strange that people are impressed if you say you are a bank manager, but less so if you say you are a supermarket manager."
As that survey and our accompanying report demonstrate, retailing does provide well paid, stimulating careers (and so does manufacturing, but that's another story). It's a shame that this message is still not getting through to the public at large. And it probably means we are going to see recruitment posters and banners decorating supermarkets in the south east for some time to come.