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A day in the life - Jennie Barton

Phase Eight’s merchandiser on why her job is the perfect balance between creativity and numbers.

What does your typical week involve?

There is no such thing as a typical week. Dresses is a huge department and right now we are working on three seasons at once. Trading is key here, and my focus on Monday is to review the previous week’s trade and identify opportunities, either placing repeat orders, extending lines or launching a new story in stores. The rest of the week will be spent planning autumn 14, and we’re in the early stages of planning spring 15.

My departments include bridal and our limited-edition evening dress line Collection 8, and I’ll spend time with my assistant merchandiser looking at how stores are performing and opportunities to roll collections and products out to new stores. International markets, such as Australia and the Middle East, are also a focus.

What task are you most looking forward to today?

We’ve just finished the initial buy for autumn 14, so today we are reviewing the spend to date and analysing each product category. I like nothing better than a big spreadsheet, so I’m really looking forward to getting stuck into this analysis.

What task do you wish you could postpone?

Today I need to have a difficult conversation with one of our suppliers. Deliveries are running very late so I will have to apply a penalty discount to the order and find out where this has gone wrong so we can ensure it doesn’t happen again.

How did you get to where you are today?

After finishing my degree I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do. A friend of mine worked as a buyer at tea retailer Whittard and recommended me for a temp role in the buying and merchandising office. I quickly realised I wanted to be a merchandiser and when a permanent role came up I went for it.

I moved to Hobbs as senior allocator and was quickly promoted to assistant merchandiser on knitwear and jersey, later covering all wovens, and was promoted to senior assistant merchandiser. I loved working at Hobbs, but after almost five years I was ready for a new challenge. After a brief time at maternitywear retailer Séraphine I moved on to Reiss as junior merchandiser, where I was responsible for the shoes and accessories departments, which was a fantastic experience. While I was there, it launched a huge new range of accessories as part of the revamped 1971 sub-brand. Running this department gave me the drive to progress to merchandiser level, so when the role came up at Phase Eight I applied straight away.

What has been your career highlight?

So far it has been working on the launch of the Collection 8 range at Phase Eight, which launched in December 2012, just before I joined. The dresses are stunning and I know how much work goes into designing and developing each one, so it was amazing to see the reaction in stores and the press. It’s an exciting time for us.

Who is your mentor?

All of my merchandisers in the past have been mentors to me; they all taught me so many skills. I always try to be like them when managing my team. But if I had to choose two, I would say Sophie Gyde, my merchandiser at Hobbs, and Susan Millin, who was merchandising director at Hobbs.

What’s the best piece of advice they’ve given you? Susan Millin always said: “Don’t think of problems, think of solutions.”

How do you see your career progressing?

I’m keen to progress to senior merchandiser and then merchandising manager level. Eventually I would love to be a merchandising director.

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

Hang in there. The junior merchandising roles often involve a lot of admin that can be boring, but as soon as you move up a level you get to be involved in so much more. It’s a brilliant career and a great balance between numbers and creativity.

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

I’m quite a creative person and would have loved to be a designer or a stylist - but I think I’m better at spreadsheets than designing.

  • Salaries for this position range from £40,000 to £45,000 (estimate provided by Henry Fox)


2013 Merchandiser, Phase Eight
2012 Junior merchandiser, Reiss
2011 Merchandiser, Séraphine
2009 Senior assistant merchandiser, Hobbs
2008 Assistant merchandiser, Hobbs
2007 Senior allocator, Hobbs
2004 Merchandising admin assistant, Whittard of Chelsea
2004 Graduated Business Studies BA Hons, Nottingham Trent University

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