The George at Asda buying manager is ramping up the pace to offer shoppers the fast fashion they crave.
What does your typical week involve?
Every team on womenswear has a trade update with their managers to review current sales and actions. We do this first thing on a Monday once all the trade reports have been updated. On Tuesdays we have fit sessions where we test prototype garments on our fit models. The rest of the week may involve meetings and going to showrooms, mainly in London, where we meet UK suppliers and manufacturers to talk through the designs and start the development process. Then we do a range build, where buyers and designers create the range that will land in store. It’s great because we get to work creatively together.
My weeks also involve a lot of travel. I’ve recently been to Delhi in India, where we were researching new embellished fabrics for autumn 15, specifically for Christmas. Usually, we have two big trips a year - one to research our autumn range and another for summer. My weeks are pretty unpredictable as every day is different, which is why my job is so amazing.
How do you feel your role is changing as the industry evolves?
The industry has changed drastically since I started working as a buyer in 2009. It is so fast-paced and dominated by speed to market, which is driven by consumer demand. Now our customers see garments on the catwalk and want them instantly. They are also more exposed to fashion through social media platforms such as Instagram, so they don’t want to have to wait for their product.
In addition to this, we work to shorter time frames than ever before. The time between the initial design process and the product arriving in store can be as short as eight weeks. At George we have many in-country offices that approve products quickly to send them off for production. I manage zone one, which includes production in Turkey, Morocco and Romania. However, we have others in India, Sri Lanka and China.
How does the growing popularity of social media impact on your job as a buyer?
The popularity of social media means we have to cater for a younger audience, especially with Instagram. It also means we have to think of ways to make our social media platforms stand
out against high street competition. In my role I now have to think about press pieces and how we can market them through social media, which is something that was never as important before.
What have you got wrong and how did you learn from it?
I think it was by being historical. It used to be about looking at last year’s products and which item took X amount, whereas now we have learned from our customer and understand that it’s all about looking for new things. The George customer has changed quite a lot. She is more savvy and needs a reason to buy, hence the switch to more fashion-focused styles, which are more in line with the high street.
Our customers interact with fashion through social media and see the catwalks, therefore we need to match their enthusiasm and make everything instantly.
Who in the industry do you aspire to emulate?
It would have to be Fiona Lambert, vice president of own brand development and design at George and Asda. She is definitely one of the most inspirational women in the fashion industry. I’ve worked under Fiona for five years now and have seen how she takes herself out of her comfort zone. The sky is the limit where she is concerned.
Fiona is also a mentor for the Women in Leadership Programme, which cherry-picks people from Asda and George. In 2012, I was chosen to take part in the two-year scheme, which has modules designed to develop leadership skills that will help you grow within the business. You participate in management courses, attend motivational talks and network with people from within Asda and George. It’s inspiring to hear their personal experiences and how they tackle their problems.
What are the key skills you need to keep progressing up the career ladder?
Number one is passion; if you don’t have that then you will not progress. The industry is so competitive so you have to be driven and flexibility is key. For example, I could come into work one day and might be told I’m needed in another department, so you have to acquire a diverse skill set. You will always experience new things in this industry, so it’s important to have an open mind.
Which of the departments you’ve worked in did you enjoy the most and why?
In terms of which department was the most fun, it was definitely G21, which focused on young fast fashion. It was fab to work with multi-product categories and fun prints for the 16 to 25 demographic. In regards to the most educational, it would be my time as a junior buyer for women’s jerseys. This role helped to develop my skills and prepare me for my current role as a buyer by allowing me to plan strategically and take full ownership of the product.
How do you see your career progressing?
I love the position I’m in right now because it’s really creative, so I’m not ready to progress yet. However, one day I aspire to be a senior buying manager. I definitely see myself progressing within George, because there’s plenty of room to grow here.
If you could work in another area of fashion, what would it be?
It would have to be product-based, because I love being able to play with clothes all day. Perhaps in marketing or design within womenswear. I could also see myself in a senior design manager role. If I had
to choose a role within another brand it would be somewhere like Zara. It combines catwalk trends with high street prices and I think it would be a great environment to work in.
2014 Buying manager, ladies’ dresses and blouses
2013 Buyer, casual wovens, George
2012 Junior buyer, ladies’ jersey, George
2010 Assistant buyer, G21 Young Fashion, George
Dec 2009 Assistant buyer, maternity and petites, George
Sept 2009 Assistant buyer, babywear, George
2009 BA (Hons) Fashion Retail Buying, De Montfort University