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How I got here: Amelia Coleman on why strong business accumen is essential

Selling her label into luxury department stores and indies is all in a day’s work for the brand manager at Danish label 2nd Day.

Amelia Coleman 2ND Day

Amelia Coleman tells Drapers about her fashion career and life working for womenswear business 2nd Day

What does your typical week involve?

My job is so versatile. I act like the UK and Ireland office for Danish womenswear label 2nd Day, so I conduct market research by visiting stores, monitor sell-through, analyse stock sale targets, do budget forecasting and look at how our brand is being received.

During each week I compile sales analysis across all the UK and Irish stockists to see if we’ve reached the internal sales budget. I then feed this information back to Denise Nørgaard, the 2nd Day brand director based in Denmark.

Throughout the selling season I can have up to seven appointments a day to show the new collection to buyers. We introduce six collections a year (pre-spring, spring, summer night, pre-autumn, autumn and winter night), usually selling to buyers up to six months in advance.

We’re stocked by more than 40 stores across the UK and Ireland, including The Dressing Room in St Albans, Bernard Boutique in Esher, Jules B in the North West and Black White Denim in Wilmslow. We launched in Liberty and on [premium etailer] VeryExclusive.com in June, which is really exciting. We’re really happy about Liberty because it’s very difficult to get into luxury department stores as there are lots of brands vying for the space. I have to be in tune with all our current stockists, as well as planning ahead and booking appointments with prospective stockists.

How do you feel your role is changing as the industry evolves?

Our company is made of four brands: Day Birger et Mikkelsen (our original womenswear clothing line), 2nd Day (womenswear collection based on leather, denim and tailoring launched five years ago), Day Et (accessories) and Day Home (homewares).

The brand manager role is becoming more challenging because the UK is such a competitive market. There are not only domestic brands but so many international brands to compete against.

The power battles during term negotiations between brands and stockists also makes my job difficult. A smaller brand needs the retailers more than they need them, which means the retailers can issue demanding payment and shipping terms. A small brand might not actually get paid until 90 days after delivery, which can cause disruption for manufacturers and problems keeping the factories running.

What have you got wrong and how did you learn from it?

When working in sales it is easy to receive a big order and get so excited that you don’t think about it realistically. At Lulu Guinness for instance, I once received a huge order but they didn’t completely sell-through, so a lot was returned. This stock was then transferred to our own retail stores. It’s so important to think about the end goal and sell-through for each particular store before committing to orders.

If I get a big order now I will suggest making amendments if I don’t think it will sell-through, based on market research, looking at the store figures and demographic. You have to build confidence when talking and negotiating with buyers, especially to raise these kinds of concerns with them.

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

I would take more time considering and contacting brands that I really want to work for. I’m so lucky now because I love the 2nd Day brand, but it’s easy to be headhunted for brands that you might not necessarily have chosen.

For instance, with 2nd Day it is really easy to sell as I wear the clothing myself. At times, I found that Lulu Guinness was not necessarily my style so it was a little more difficult to understand the product. It makes a huge difference to sell a brand you truly love.

Who in the industry do you aspire to emulate?

At Lulu Guinness I worked under commercial director Nicola Hoare, who was really inspirational. She was so hard-working and having worked for the brand for seven years she knew the product like no one else. I always felt empowered and trusted under her management.

What advice would you give to your 18-year-old self?

I would tell myself to pay more attention to the maths, especially the analytical elements. The business side of fashion is actually my favourite part. I love analysing sales data and making decisions to improve the overall sell-through. When something works it’s really satisfying. 

What are the key skills you need to acquire to keep progressing up the career ladder?

I think you need strong business acumen and ‘a customer comes first’ mind-set. Also, the ability to build and keep working on those relationships even when you change companies is crucial, because fashion is such a small industry. You must never leave any ill feelings in your wake. It’s imperative to always be proactive and not wait for opportunities to come to you, because they won’t.

How do you see your career progressing?

I see myself progressing at 2nd Day and contributing towards the success of the brand in the UK and Ireland. My past roles have been more international, which brings a lot of variety, so I would like to explore that again at some point. 

I would also like to become head of sales or brand, which are more strategic roles and bring the challenge of managing a team. I would be charged with growing our key accounts, increasing turnover and brand awareness.

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

I have always been interested in sourcing and production. Working in fashion can be quite an unethical business and leave a real strain on the environment. I believe ethical production is essential. If I worked in this area I would be able to travel to factories and take responsibility for the impact that production was having on the local ecosystem.

CV

2014 Brand manager for UK and Ireland, 2nd Day

November 2011 Wholesale manager, Lulu Guinness

2011 Sales manager, UK and Ireland, Sam Edelman Footwear & Accessories, 1927 London

January 2010 Wholesale assistant, UK and Ireland, Juicy Couture, 1927 London, (sales agency and distributor)

2010 Level 4 Diploma, Buying & Merchandising, Fashion Retail Academy, London

2009 Level 2 Diploma, Fashion Retail, Fashion Retail Academy, London

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