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A day in the life of Matthew Saunders

Since starting in a call centre, menswear firm BMB Group’s senior merchandiser has had no hang-ups about taking risks.

Matthew Saunders

Matthew Saunders

What does your typical week involve?
Monday is all about trade, looking at what garments have and haven’t worked. We look at the expected rate of sale of each style versus the range plan. If a style is underperforming, we ask why. As coats and knitwear sales have been affected by the warm autumn weather, we decide whether to hold out for colder weather or launch a promotion.

We will also look at future commitments for that category and any stock risks it may cause. We see if we can change the fit or put that cloth into a better-performing style to maximise sales and minimise markdown. Likewise, I also go through bestsellers with the buying team, highlighting any repeats required or future trends.

Which task are you most looking forward to today?
We have just begun our autumn 15 range review process. First we analyse trends, styling and colours, for example focusing on new blues or checks for next year. Next we analyse the current range and see what’s performing. We have found checks and blues are doing really well, so we look at how many check options or variations of blue we have for next year. I love micro-analysing sales down to cloth, lapel design, colour and fit - anything to assist buyers in developing the future range. In the third meeting we look at the samples and analyse the range plan to determine the rate of sale of each style. From this we build the budget and buy plans. I love to see the range coming together, from a tiny swatch to samples to it being delivered in store, and then seeing the sales.

How did you get to where you are today?
I studied acting at secondary school and went on to do a BA in Contemporary Performance Practice at Leeds Metropolitan [now Beckett] University.

As a student I worked at Grattan’s Bradford call centre. After graduating in 2008, I became a call centre team leader when Grattan’s parent company, Otto Group, relocated the centre to Sheffield. The group included womenswear retailer Oli and I applied for a buying admin position there, but the buying and merchandise director felt I would be better suited to merchandising admin assistant because of my sales background. In 2011 my colleague at Oli, buyer Rebecca Piccos, recommended me to her husband Sam Brocklebank, who was head of menswear at Republic. He offered me a job as assistant merchandiser. It was a complete shift from ecommerce to working across 120 retail stores. When Republic went into administration in February 2013 I was transferred to Sports Direct, which acquired the business the same month.

In May 2013 I became merchandiser at men’s tailoring wholesaler and retailer Berwin & Berwin. A year later I moved to menswear wholesaler and retailer BMB Group, as senior merchandiser, managing 32 stores and two websites for the Jeff Banks and Suit Direct outlets.

What has happened in the year since being named one of our 30 under 30?
I’ve moved to BMB Group. I’ve gone from managing a team of two to six people, as well as looking after two budgets and two sets of reporting.

What has it meant for you both personally and professionally?
Personally, it was a great honour to be recognised for my hard work by those around me. Professionally, it gave me exposure, which helped me get my new role at a higher level.

Who is your mentor?
Currently it’s BMB’s buying and merchandise director, Jonathan Day.

What’s the best piece of advice he’s given you?
To ask of each garment: “If this was your business or your money, would you buy it?”

How do you see your career progressing?
Ultimately, I want my own fashion company, either my own store selling multiple brands or my own brand for retail and wholesale.

What advice would you give to someone wanting to follow in your footsteps?
Go get it! Work long hours for little pay, because it will all be worth it. Listen to those around you and ask questions. There is no such thing as a stupid question. Take risks and fail - just ensure you learn from your mistakes. Most of all, enjoy it!


2014 Senior merchandiser, BMB Group
2013 Merchandiser, Berwin & Berwin
2012 Junior merchandiser, Republic
2011 Assistant merchandiser, Republic
2009 Assistant merchandiser, Oli
2009 Merchandising administration assistant, Oli
2009 Call centre team leader, Grattan
2008 BA (Hons) Contemporary Performance Practice, Leeds Metropolitan University

  • Salaries for this type of position range from £50,000 to £60,000 (estimate provided by Fashion & Retail Personnel)

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