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A day in the life - Melanie Smallwood

Ebay’s coffee-fuelled UK head of fashion brands is changing perceptions of the auction site.

Living with my husband, two daughters (aged three-and-a-half and nine), one dog and three cats, it’s a busy household and let’s just say the work/life balance thing can be quite interesting. I’m pretty organised though. We’re up at 6am, the kids get ready and have their breakfast, then I leave for work at 8am and my husband takes them to school.

Ebay’s UK offices are by the river in Richmond. I love the drive through Richmond Park from our house in Wimbledon. There’s a 20mph limit through the park and by the time I get to work at 8.30am I’ve left the chaos at home behind and I’m completely refreshed and excited about the day ahead.

I always do a coffee run to [food retailer] Giraffe to kick-start my day before landing at my desk. The first thing I did today was click through to all the stores on eBay’s Fashion Outlet, to make sure nothing needed addressing right away. I’m also in negotiations for acquisition of new business, so then I looked through contracts.

I have a diverse day – I can be looking at contracts one minute, be in a marketing meeting talking about look books the next, then talking about product development, which involves developments to do with the site and functionality that are going to enhance our offer.

As eBay’s head of fashion brands UK, I oversee three business development managers and my role is about perception changing, bringing on brands and multi-category retailers to the business, and developing existing business, which involves working on marketing, PR and advertising. The functionality of the site is also important for our retailers. So my role is part technical, part marketing, part brand.

One reason I joined eBay was because I saw online as the future of retailing. Clothing, shoes and accessories is eBay’s biggest category; since we launched the Fashion Outlet two years ago our number of unique visitors per month to fashion only has doubled to 4 million. For the website as a whole it’s about 17 million. There’s nothing you can compare us to. And when that customer comes through the door, it’s my job to make it work for the brands.

I’m so busy that lunchtime normally passes me by. At about 3pm I grab another coffee and some chocolate from the fabulous kitchens we have here to sustain me until I get home for 7pm.

We try and get the kids into bed fairly quickly but it doesn’t always work. Then when the door’s shut, the dog’s quiet and the cats’ are sleeping, we sit down to dinner about 9pm and have an hour of sanity before bed at 11pm. It doesn’t last for long though. My three-year-old is a sleepwalker, so at 3am I’m often woken by the sound of “Mum!”

Salaries for this position range from £80,000 to £100,000 (estimate provided by Freedom Recruitment)


2011 UK head of fashion brands, eBay

2011 Senior business development manager, eBay

2010 Senior buyer, Secret Sales

2005 Buying manager, Harvey Nichols

1990 DSM/assistant to director of womenswear, Harrods

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