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A day in the life: Stacey Sutherland

The senior merchandiser at womenswear chain Coast has counted on her strength with numbers to get ahead.

What does your diary look like today?

Pretty busy. It’s Monday so I’ll be catching up on trade for last week, analysing what has sold well and what hasn’t, and taking trading actions for the next week.

What meeting are you most looking forward to today?

The trading meeting. It’s always good to have the whole team together with the executive team discussing performance for the week, good or bad. All members of the team benefit from the time spent with directors, because they gain insight from their years of experience in the business.

What task do you wish you could postpone?

Markdowns. I find the tail end of the main Sale clearance quite eye-opening. You can really see where we have made mistakes in terms of options bought or the depth bought behind them. The key is to learn from the mistakes and make sure you don’t make the same ones again.

How did you get to where you are today?

I’ve always been passionate about fashion.

Ever since I can remember I was interested in watching what people wear and how; seeing trends emerge from the street up, and then later as I started my career understanding more about how high-end designers influence what goes into high street shops.

My strength has always been with numbers and it wasn’t until I graduated from university with an economics degree that I learned about merchandising and saw a way into the world of fashion retail. I started my career 13 years ago as an allocator and have worked my way through the merchandising discipline at a steady pace in four different companies. I was promoted to senior merchandiser in May 2012.

What is your career highlight?

Following my promotion in 2012, I was lucky enough to be one of only four people from Coast to be sent to the Oxford Academy Summer School for retailers.

Run by the British Independent Retailers Association (Bira), it aims to increase delegates’ knowledge and understanding of retail operations. It was an intense week, which felt like university again. I met some great people and learned even more about retail.

If you could change one thing about your career path, what would it be?

I could have moved around a bit more to broaden my knowledge of different types of retail. I’ve always gone for women’s fashion companies as this is where my heart is - but could I have learned more if I’d spent some time at one of the big department stores or a supermarket? Pure-play etail is also a model that greatly interests me.

Who is your mentor?

I’ve had a few in my time. At the start, when I was at Wallis, I worked with a merchandiser called Kate Collington. I greatly admired her work ethic and she was a stickler for detail. We met again at Jacques Vert, where she shepherded me through my development to merchandiser. Now I’m at Coast, and along with merchandise director Clare Kelly, I look to people outside of my function and have sought advice and coaching from directors in HR, finance and retail.

What’s the best piece of advice Kelly has given you?

“Go with your gut.” Clare isn’t the only person to have said this, but it resonates more when your boss says it as it means she trusts and believes in me - so I should too.

How do you see your career progressing?

I’ll eventually work my way up to merchandising director. I quite like the idea of a role like this in a small company, where the team is small and agile and decisions are made quickly.

What advice would you give to someone wanting to follow in your footsteps?

Be prepared to work hard. Retail is a fast-paced environment. It’s important that you manage your time properly. Keep time free for when last-minute requests and tight deadlines drop into your lap.

If you could work in another area of fashion, what would it be?

Design. I love working with the product and I greatly admire the design team and their creative streak. When your design team is on top form they can be the most inspiring team in head office. Unfortunately for me I’m better with a calculator than a pencil and a sketch pad.

  • Salaries for this position range from £55,000 to £70,000 (estimate provided by Le Pont)

CV

2012 Senior merchandiser, Coast
2010 Merchandiser, Coast
2006 Merchandiser, Planet, Jacques Vert Group
2004 Senior assistant merchandiser, Dune footwear
2002 Assistant merchandiser, Wallis, Arcadia Group
2000 Allocator, Wallis, Arcadia Group
1999 Graduated Economics BSc, Middlesex University

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