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How I got here: Hobbs' Mairi Fairley applies science to marketing

Hobbs’ strategy and business development director applies the analytical skills gleaned from her science background to the world of fashion

Mairi Fairley

Mairi Fairley

Hobbs strategy and business development director

The first thing I do when I get up in the morning is go on the cross-trainer, because if I don’t do it straight away I won’t do it. Then I watch the news to get up to speed with what’s going on in the world and I look at my emails, so I can understand what’s happened in the business overnight.

On a Monday we will look at what product and strategies worked, and what didn’t, from the week before. Then it’s my job to work out what we do next. The strategy is less focused on the day to day and more on the wider vision for the business, so it is critical I’m up to speed with what’s happening to enable me to inform our plans for the next six to 12 months. My job is to know a little about everything, so I work with everyone across the whole business and rely on the experts in each department to give me the inside track.

Hobbs spring 16


Spring 16 collection

My role as strategy and business development director has quite a broad remit. For example, I look after business from an international perspective, heading a team that includes the head of international and an international merchandiser. Internationally we have nine concessions in the US, franchises in Russia and a small business in Sweden. The key is to work with the partners and spend time meeting them in their local market, which involves me travelling every couple of months. 

I also look after CRM (customer relationship management) and the customer marketing strategy. I help the business understand consumer trends for the next year and ensure that any key projects we’re working on are ready for the future, so we can give customers the best experience possible. We have a great database of customer information, which is helpful as it shows us how she wants to be communicated with.

When I’m devising a strategy, I start with different sources of information that are relevant to Hobbs. I build a project plan and work out how we can approach it across the business, setting goals and objectives to execute. Plans are never perfect and things change, but it’s always important to have a clear end goal in sight. For instance, a recent project we worked on for a month involved investigating the various delivery options available on the Hobbs website to ensure we offer the full range of choices.

I analyse the customer, market trends, commentary, fashion news, market research, customer research and statistics. From this wealth of information I pull out what’s interesting and relevant for Hobbs in terms of product or future markets. This information is shared across the business, helping all the departments implement the overall strategy.

I have had an interesting career progression, from chemistry to consulting. Studying any science is very analytical and you’re trained to ask questions, find answers and pull information together. Putting together a strategy involves the same skills. You need to ask the right questions, pull together the information and analyse the best way to proceed.

The beauty for me of moving in house from a consultancy is that I can really dive down into the detail and find the most powerful strategy for everyone in the business. I enjoy working with the different teams at Hobbs to build their strategy and getting to know a business well is exciting. What I like about working in the fashion industry is that it’s so dynamic and things are changing all the time. Retail is really international and fast-paced, and reacts to trends more quickly than other sectors.

I’ve learned that there’s no such thing as a stupid question. Often the most insightful questions are the simplest. My team is also key, as it’s not possible to do it all myself and I have great people around me. Also, everything starts with the customer and, if you can put that at the heart of the business, you will be successful.

The last thing I do at night is watch TV and check my emails to make sure everything is OK. When you’re working in international markets, you can’t just operate on UK hours.

Plan B

I would be a chef in Heston Blumenthal’s experimental kitchen. I think it harks back to my chemistry roots. Cooking is the leisure activity I enjoy the most and that I find the most rewarding. I love making a great meal for friends and looking for recipes that challenge me.



2003-2007: Masters in Chemistry, Oxford University


September 2015 - Present: Strategy and business development director, responsible for international, customer insight and CRM, Hobbs

2014-2015: Associate partner (working with Agent Provocateur, Hobbs, Pizza Express, Radisson Hotels, French Connection), OC&C Strategy Consultants, London

2013: Secondment to Tesco, working with the board to develop a health and wellbeing strategy

2012-13: Manager, OC&C Strategy Consultants, Boston

2007-12: Consultant, OC&C Strategy Consultants, London

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