Retention is another major problem, with some wholesalers reporting turnover levels as high as 55%. According to one panel member, drivers are particularly hard to find, with recruitment problems likely to get even worse next year when HGV drivers will become subject to the Working Time Directive. “A wholesaler recently told me he would employ a gorilla if it had an HGV licence and was honest and reliable,” he said.
Recruiting staff in regions of very low unemployment such as the Lake District, parts of Edinburgh, the Isle of Man and Lincolnshire was a major headache, he added. “Wages in our industry are not great and in sought after residential regions, house prices are sky high and there is little council housing stock. The young, ambitious, reliable people one would wish to employ tend to move away. I know some wholesalers have even considered purchasing or building staff houses.”
Recruitment and retention would always pose some problems because pay was often better in the retail sector, said one panellist.
The job was not glamorous and conditions weren’t great, making it doubly hard to build loyalty, he added.
Likewise, staff were often located in industrial parks and could move with ease to rival employers on the same estate.
“Warehouse staff in particular often see this work as a last resort - particularly if they are working in cold stores, and it doesn’t take much for them to leave,” observed one wholesaler. “We are often obliged to employ people who we would not normally countenance if we had a choice.”