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Drapers Next Gen: Get international experience, says The White Company’s clothing director

It is important to get a wide range of experience across different companies – and ideally in different countries, The White Company’s clothing director Barbara Horspool said today.

Horspool said her stint in the 1990s at lifestyle retailer Esprit, which operates from headquarters in Germany and Hong Kong, gave her a vital understanding of how global businesses are run.

Speaking at Drapers Next Generation in London today, she also admitted she has a tendency to move jobs after a few years – for example, she worked at New Look for five years and Jigsaw for two and a half before moving to The White Company in 2014.

“It’s important [to move around] when you’re young. If you’re not getting really good succession planning, you have to go out there and make sure you’ll get that development at another company.

“How regularly is up to you: if you job hop too much, it doesn’t great on your CV, but it’s fine if you’re clear about your reasons for leaving. And it shouldn’t be for money – it should always be about your career.”

Horspool said she was a great believer in seeking out new challenges, as well as setting them for her team: “I don’t believe in telling people how to do their jobs – I believe in giving them a challenge and seeing how they grow. I have a reputation for going up to people’s desks and giving them a new challenge – and then I watch them deliver.”

She chose to move from Jigsaw to The White Company for that very reason: “Half of The White Company’s sales are online and my background is all in-store retailing. I’m a bit of a restless soul and I wanted to understand more about online retailing.

“I’m still learning. It still freaks me out: marketing and analytic teams tell us what the customer likes – it’s very different to walking into a store and asking if she likes it.”

The White Company launched clothing eight years ago and it now represents half of the lifestyle retailer’s sales. “Ted Baker is a fabulous clothing brand that sells other stuff really well, whereas we’ve grown clothing around the way you live your life. That gives us a strong USP.”

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