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A day in the life of Gemma Evans

Studying for a BA in fashion business helped Superdry’s senior merchandiser break into her dream job.

Gemma

What does your typical week involve?
Every Monday the merchandising team looks at our sales patterns to see if there has been a change in any of our new lines. We evaluate the products’ pros and cons and come up with a list of actions. We ask, for example, which bestsellers do we want to rebuy? Are there any lines that are selling well in some markets compared with others? Do we need to move the stock?

On Tuesdays, I will meet with the co-founders James Holder [brand and design director] and Julian Dunkerton [product and brand director] to discuss how our products are selling, why we think our customers prefer some garments over others and what actions we want to take to improve the stores. At the moment we are in the middle of buying for autumn 15, so we analyse what we think will work and come up with a strategy on how to build the collection.

How do you feel your role is changing as the industry evolves?
I’ve definitely seen a change in the past few years. With the massive growth of online and international customers,we have to look at those areas in more detail. Ecommerce has seen huge growth at Superdry. There’s a difference between what customers buy online versus what they buy in store, so we have to be aware of this.

We review sales performances weekly and this gives us an insight into international customer spending habits. When we compare these to UK habits, we see the differences.

Each market is different and these differences can be skewed towards a particular size profile, colour or product area. So we have to adjust the range to match their needs.

What are the three defining moments of your career?
In 2007, I was asked to cover maternity leave for my boss, merchandiser Emma Onslow, when I was just an entry-level assistant merchandiser at Warehouse. I had such a good relationship with my buyer, Louise Doran, who championed me for the role. After taking it on, I progressed well and was rewarded with promotion to junior merchandiser within a year.

Secondly, it would be running the merchandising function for a plus-size range at New Look called Inspire, back in 2012. The role made me strive to help women overcome the challenges they have with shopping and provide them with a range of clothes that made them feel fashionable.

Lastly, moving to Superdry in 2014 as senior merchandiser was a very proud moment of mine. What I love about Superdry most is the product, the quality and attention to detail.

What have you got wrong and how did you learn from it?
At the age of 18, I didn’t know what I wanted to do. I studied maths at university, but I had a light bulb moment when I was travelling in South America after graduating in 2003. I was using drawing as a method to teach English, which made me realise I had a creative streak.

On returning to the UK, I went to work for Dorothy Perkins as a merchandising administration assistant, but I found it hard to adapt to a professional environment. At work your progression is not down to ticking off a set of criteria on a list like at university. In becoming a merchandising administration assistant, I learned to be accurate, pay attention to detail and interact with suppliers, buyers and managers. It can be quite an intense period, but once you’ve cracked it you’re set up for a career in merchandising.

Who in the industry do you aspire to emulate?
James and Julian. They are always thinking about the next innovation and the newest ways to move forward. The fact Superdry is still run by its co-founders means there is a drive and entrepreneurial spirit that doesn’t exist elsewhere. They have brought the business from zero to a leading global brand in just 10 years.

What advice would you give to your 18-year-old self?
At 18, you go through a lot - anything from heartbreak to difficult exams - and if I could go back, I would say that these difficulties are what make you stronger and better equipped for adult life.

What are the key skills to keep acquiring in order to progress up the career ladder?
You need to look for opportunities to improve yourself and how you cater for your customers. I do that by analysing all the different sources of information, such as sales analysis, customer feedback and keeping up to date with the latest trends. Also, the ability to communicate with people at all levels and empathise with the needs of managers, peers and customers is hard but essential.

How do you see your career progressing?
You should feel like you’re evolving, moving forward and progressing. I always said to myself that if I started to feel too comfortable within a company then it would be time to move on, but there’s so much opportunity at Superdry I hope to stay for a substantial amount of my career. I would like to become a merchandising manager and eventually work my way to the top as a merchandising director.

CV

2014 Senior merchandiser, womenswear, Superdry

2012 Senior merchandiser and merchandiser, Inspire, New Look

2011 Merchandiser, jewellery, New Look

2010 Merchandiser, kidswear, New Look

2009 Merchandiser, tailoring, Warehouse

2008 Junior merchandiser, tailoring, Warehouse; junior merchandiser, softwovens,Warehouse

2008 BA (Hons) Fashion Business, London College of Fashion

2007 Acting junior merchandiser, soft wovens, Warehouse

2006 Assistant merchandiser, Warehouse

2004 Merchandising administration assistant, Dorothy Perkins

2003 BSc (Hons) Mathematics, University of Reading

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