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Significant Brain Drain at Global Retailers Predicted

April 21, 2010
Korn/Ferry survey of 66 major retailers shows that senior executives are likely to be on the move as the economy recovers

LOS ANGELES, April 21, 2010 /PRNewswire via COMTEX/ --A significant brain drain is being predicted at global retailers, according to a new study by the Korn/Ferry Institute entitled What's in store? The forecast for global retail launched today.

The study, based on a survey of 66 top retail CEOs and board members, shows that there is a mismatch between retailers' belief that they can continue to meet their leadership talent needs with ease as the economy improves, and market forces combining to make this much more challenging to achieve.

Thirty-six percent of global retail leaders feel "very confident" that they will continue to attract best-in-class talent as the economy enters a recovery phase. However, 47 percent expect more senior executives to leave their firm and more worryingly, 43 percent think that more high-potential executives will leave.

Additionally, respondents voiced concerns about the need for a specific skill set to lead companies out of the recession, into recovery and onto growth. In particular, nearly a quarter (24 percent) of retail leaders feel that the ability to "create the new and different" is lacking in their senior management team.

The retail sector has been anecdotally known to lag behind other industries in developing succession planning strategies. For example in international FMCG companies it is usual for executives to be encouraged to move internationally several times in order to develop their careers. This is much less common in the retail sector. It is therefore a concern for the sector that 43 percent of CEOs and executive leaders report that there has been no change in importance placed on succession planning. In fact, among respondents only 20 percent of CEOs and Board members claim they talk about succession more than once a year, which is in stark contrast to best-in-class organizations globally that discuss leadership identification and succession planning on a continuous basis.

Tierney Remick, managing director of Korn/Ferry's Global Consumer Market, said, "Our extensive survey of some of the most influential and highly rated CEOs and board members in the retail industry shows some conflicting trends. Retailers see a real gap in the leadership skills they believe is necessary for the way forward; they believe having the right leadership talent is a strategic advantage and yet they also expect serious competitive threats for this senior executive talent over the next few years. A large number of retail companies are not leveraging strategic succession plans and identifying and retaining the right leadership talent for their business needs."

Ian Cheshire, CEO of Kingfisher and survey participant, added, "We should prepare ourselves for a post-recessionary scramble for good talent. We would expect the pool of good candidates to be much more heavily fished."

Finally, there is almost unanimous agreement among CEOs and board members that leadership talent can be a competitive differentiator for retailers. Learning agility and innovation were cited by survey respondents as critical competencies for the achievement of retailing business objectives. It is therefore logical to conclude that global retailers that recruit, identify, assess and develop their leadership talent will reap the commercial rewards of a powerful and engaged workforce.

The study is available to download from The Korn/Ferry Institute site at:

About The Korn/Ferry Institute

The Korn/Ferry Institute was founded to serve as a premier global voice on a range of talent management and leadership issues. The Institute commissions, originates and publishes groundbreaking research utilizing Korn/Ferry's unparalleled expertise in executive recruitment and talent development combined with its preeminent behavioral research library. The Institute is dedicated to improving the state of global human capital for businesses of all sizes around the world.

About Korn/Ferry International

Korn/Ferry International, with a presence throughout the Americas, Asia Pacific, Europe, the Middle East and Africa, is a premier global provider of talent management solutions celebrating 40 years in business. Based in Los Angeles, the firm delivers an array of solutions that help clients to attract, develop, retain and sustain their talent. Visit for more information on the Korn/Ferry International family of companies, and for thought leadership, intellectual property and research.

SOURCE Korn/Ferry International

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