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A day in the life of Sally Phillips

Work experience inspired a change of direction for the Figleaves buyer, which led all the way to her dream job.

What does your typical week involve?
The great thing about fashion buying is that no two weeks are the same. We analyse and present key trade stories to senior management. These could include sales of new arrivals on the site, the success of brand launches and reviewing the week’s best-selling and worst-selling styles. We also analyse the impact of promotional and markdown Sales, as well as reactions to website features and the team looks at what is working across lingerie, sleepwear, clothing and menswear, to establish if we are all in line. As a swimwear buyer fit is important, so I spend a lot of time fitting our four models of different bust sizes and shapes. Otherwise, my days are spent viewing the swimwear ranges for summer 15 from brands such as Seafolly and Freya, developing own-brand collections, negotiating prices and planning with my merchandising team.

What meeting are you most looking forward to today?
A design and development meeting for our new swimwear brand to launch in summer 15. Going through key trends with my assistant buyer and designer is my favourite part of the job as it’s where I get to be most creative. I look forward to seeing the new trends at Salon International de la Lingerie in Paris. We also attend Première Vision in Paris, Moda in Birmingham [which took place this week], London Swimwear Show, Miami SwimShow and The London Textile Fair.

What task do you wish you could postpone?
Planning buy quantities can be quite laborious. We use the previous season’s sales analysis and current trend knowledge to decide how to plan our unit quantities going forward.

How did you get to where you are today?
I always wanted to work in fashion and studied fashion merchandising management at the University of Westminster. I found I actually preferred the buying role, which was evident after a one-year work placement as an allocator on Linea at House of Fraser. Afterwards I became a buyer’s administrator at QVC, moving on to assistant buyer at the Jacques Vert Group. I was promoted to junior buyer at Jacques Vert, after which I took time out to go travelling for six months. On my return I found my dream role as buyer at Figleaves.

What has been your career highlight?
Travelling overseas, particularly to meet my favourite suppliers in Hong Kong. It’s also great to see our products in my favourite magazines.

Who is your mentor?
My mother Jacquie Phillips has been a big influence on me. She is a hard-working, entrepreneurial woman who fought against all the odds from being a young single mother to owning three successful small businesses and managing to look stylish all at the same time. Professionally, Debbie Farr, a buyer I worked with at Precis, inspired me to fall in love with buying when I was working as an assistant product manager on the brand.
What was the best piece of advice she ever gave you? To respect my suppliers, communicate well and understand their different cultures, as this will help build long-standing relationships.

How do you see your career progressing?
Although I’ve worked on multiple product areas from tailoring, soft wovens and knitwear to jersey and accessories, I really enjoy swimwear. I would love to follow it as far as possible, perhaps make it to buyer manager or director, which would mean driving the top-line strategy and managing multiple departments.

If you could work in another area of fashion, what would it be?
I’ve always liked organising and production, but also being creative. My sister Amie Phillips is a stylist and I always thought we would make a great team.

What advice would you give to someone wanting to follow in your footsteps?
Follow a vocational degree with work experience - it’s really important to know what you’re getting into. Travel before you start your career as it’s a risk to take yourself out once you get on the path. Be willing to work hard, love what you do and keep smiling.

Salaries for this position range from £35,000 to £50,000, dependent on experience (estimate provided by Michael Page Recruitment)


2012 Buyer,
2011 Knitwear and jersey buyer, Austin Reed
2007 Junior product manager, Precis, Jacques Vert Group
2005 Assistant product manager, Precis, Jacques Vert Group
2004 Buyer’s admin, QVC
2001 Allocator, year work placement, Linea, HoF
2000 BA Fashion Merchandise Management Hons, University of Westminster



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