John Lewis is hiring an extra 100 IT staff as it continues its drive into online following a successful Christmas and sales trading season.
And according to Paul Coby, IT director at the department stores chain, a high proportion of the roles are managerial and/or strategic, reflecting an industry-wide shift in the kind of positions that corporate IT now offers compared to 10 years ago.
John Lewis enjoyed a surge in online and online-sourced sales during the Christmas period, partly driven by its "click and collect" initiative, enabling shoppers to order online up to 7pm for collection from John Lewis and selected Waitrose stores after 2pm the next day.
The initiative enabled the company to better compete against pure-play e-tailers, such as Amazon, which are reportedly looking into how it can cost-effectively provide a similar service.
"We have about 300 staff in the John Lewis divisional IT department and over the next year or so we will be adding another 100," Coby told Computing.
In the current climate, with online competition in the retail sector hotting up, demand for business-focused IT staff that understand "omni-channel retail" is high, says Coby.
"There's a lot of business change going on that's enabled by IT, which means that we are looking for top-of-the-range project and programme managers, business analysts and people who will shape and deliver the future."
The shift towards omni-channel retailing by traditional retailers reflects a tacit admission that shops of all kinds are competing against Amazon and other pure online outfits, and has led to a boom in demand for appropriately qualified staff. That means people who don't just have the technical web skills, but who can see how the online component relates to the organisation's other business systems, while understanding the business as a whole and being to communicate to business staff.
"I think the demand for retail IT professionals is pretty high at the moment - globally, not just in the UK," says Coby.
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