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How I got here - Jill Smethers

Womenswear chain East’s head of marketing left an ad agency to cut her teeth at Selfridges.

What does your diary look like today?

Today is a day of two halves. This morning I Skyped with Fabindia - our parent company based in New Delhi - regarding commissioning imagery to support our brand communications and this afternoon I’m meeting a multichannel specialist to discuss the growth developments for the brand.

What meeting are you most looking forward to today?

The meeting with our creative manager to finalise the window campaigns and point-of-sale for winter and Christmas.

We have some fabulous schemes for the forthcoming season and I can’t wait to see them in store.

What task do you wish you could postpone?

Having to do my expenses. I prefer the more creative side of my job. Also, having just joined in April I’ve been out visiting lots of the stores across the UK, so I’ve been building up a pile of expenses that I need to get through.

How did you get to where you are today?

After leaving school I applied to do a Diploma in Advertising at Watford College, which at the time was the only course [of its kind] in the country. After graduating, my first job was with award-winning London ad agency Simons Palmer Denton Clemmow & Johnson, but after a year I decided it wasn’t for me and that marketing was where my true passion lay. So I then took a role as personal assistant to the marketing director at Selfridges. After three months a full-time role was created for me as a marketing co-ordinator and by the time I left four years later I was brand marketing manager.

I’ve since worked at a number of brands including Habitat, GAP, Coast and Rituals cosmetics, and am now excited about my role at East because there is so much potential here.

What has been your career highlight?

Working at Selfridges on the biggest and best promotion retail has ever seen - 23½ Days of Bollywood in May 2002, which was a month-long in-store extravaganza. It also gave me the fantastic opportunity to visit India, which was inspiring.

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

Nothing at all in my career, because all of my experiences have got me to where I am today. However, if I had to pick one thing it would be to change the fact I didn’t go to university - not for the education but for the experience.

How do you see your career progressing?

I only joined East in April so I’m really looking forward to working with the team here, re-establishing and exploring its rich heritage and telling its unique story through our multichannel offer.

What advice would you give to someone wanting to follow in your footsteps?

It would be to get out there and make it happen for yourself, don’t wait to be handed everything on a plate. If you see an opportunity, then go for it and grab it with both hands.

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

It would have to be as a designer.

It must be immensely satisfying to see someone in the street wearing something you’ve designed; it’s the ultimate compliment. However, being a self-confessed shopaholic I would have to make sure it didn’t just turn into a personal collection for me.

  • Salaries for this position range from £70,000 to £80,000 (estimate provided by Fashion & Retail Personnel)


2013 Head of marketing, East
2011 UK communications manager, Rituals
2008 Marketing and PR manager, Coast
2005 Marketing manager, Habitat
2003 Marketing manager, Penhaligon’s
2000 Brand marketing manager, Selfridges
1999 Marketing co-ordinator, Selfridges
1998 PA to marketing director, Selfridges

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