The buying, merchandising and design departments work together much more closely now the balance of power has shifted towards the consumer, a panel of leading buyers and merchandising experts from Asos, Yoox Net-a-Porter and Pure Collection told delegates at the Drapers Next Generation event in London today.
Buying and merchandising panel Drapers Next Generation 2016
“There has always been a healthy tension with buying, merchandising and design,” said Jo Hooper, product director at Pure Collection. “Now the consumer is in charge of when they shop and how they want to shop, which is very connected to the rise of digital, so that is shifting.”
Lea Cranfield, merchandising director at Yoox Net-a-Porter Group, agreed: “It is always going to be a case of yin and yang between buyers and merchandisers but they have to be [working] hand in hand. Now we have a much closer relationship to other departments such as marketing and digital to ensure we communicate the brand effectively.”
Asos womenswear director Nikki Tattersall added: “Mobile is a huge gamechanger for us – 60% of our traffic now comes from mobile from pretty much zero five years ago. That makes a huge change within the business.”
Cranfield asked: “Who would have thought five years ago there would have been a team to do social media? People didn’t realise that you can sell a product just through putting it on Instagram.”
Despite this shift, Tattersall said the core skills for a role in buying are being passionate about product, having a commercial eye and keeping on top of the latest developments.
“It is also about being as diverse as possible,” she said, explaining that at Asos many people rising through the ranks are those who have worked in early-stage start-ups.
“They come to the table with a huge amount of experience and have a more rounded approach to a role,” she said.
Cranfield told prospective job seekers looking for their next role in buying or merchandising that the most important thing she looks for in candidates is that they are memorable.
“Someone once drew me a picture of what their shop would look like on Net-a-Porter for their covering letter and I knew I had to meet them,” she said. “Another person did their whole presentation on an iPad five years ago, when it really stood out.”
Hooper also advised to be clear about your key skills and those you want to develop, as well as about your weaknesses.
“Set the parameters and be clear about what you can achieve,” she added.
The Drapers Next Generation one-day careers and networking conference is being held at 30 Euston Square in London.