Buying director, Ann Summers
What does your job involve?
I probably have one of the most unique buying director roles in the industry, due to [lingerie and sex toy chain] Ann Summers’ eclectic product mix. Creating and implementing our new product strategy with a fantastically talented team of buyers and working in tandem with marketing on our brand repositioning has made my first 18 months hugely exciting. Being a brand ambassador and spending time educating key opinion formers about the brand direction is also integral to my role, and something that has been crucial over the past year as we’ve launched our new brand and product offering. Travelling across the globe to gain inspiration and meet current and new supply partners is also central to my role, and enables me to offer fabulous product and value.
What skills do you need?
It’s always been a must for me to have an absolute passion for wanting to understand my customers’ needs and motivations. You also need the ability to see opportunities across a business and have the vision and passion for your customer and brand.
What do you like and dislike about your job?
What I love about my job is the fact I’m working for such a unique brand that is truly focused on breaking down barriers, taboos and changing attitudes. The mix of product means one minute I’m in a meeting discussing the launch of our new neon Rampant Rabbit, the next I’m showcasing and discussing the direction of our lingerie with fashion magazines.
How did you get to where you are today?
I was very fortunate to have started my career at Marks & Spencer, where I was allowed to undertake a variety of roles within retail, from store management, retail operations, an international appointment and buying and merchandising. The broad skill set that delivered was further expanded by testing those skills in a fast-moving consumer goods business, where trading tenacity was at the heart of the role. This blend of experiences has been key to helping me undertake this role.
What is your proudest career achievement to date?
Working with [Ann Summers chief executive] Jacqueline Gold and [deputy managing director] Vanessa Gold on the radical transformation of our product offer across our three trading channels in autumn 11.
What is your ambition?
To be part of the team that gets Ann Summers trading across the globe and therefore brings a unique pleasure experience to millions more women and some men.
How do you intend to get there?
By securing our new direction in the UK while exploring wider distribution channels with potential new partners.
What three words sum you up?
Visionary, driven, courageous.
What advice would you give to someone wanting to follow in your footsteps?
Be daring with career decisions. Take opportunities to widen your career experiences even if that is sideways – true success will come once you have a rounded view of your business. Ensure your creativity is based on commercial foundations. Be motivated by success. Give yourself a target and then double it. Don’t be afraid of standing up for what you believe in. Do what you do with integrity. Remember the customer truly is king or queen. Above all, enjoy – life is too short.
2010 Buying director, Ann Summers
2004 Category and brand director, Superdrug
1993 Various retail, operations, buying and merchandising, and sourcing roles, Marks & Spencer