Blending her visual creativity and love of fashion with a quick financial brain, the Longchamp store manager in Westfield London has helped raise the bar at her boutique.
The start of the week is always one of the busiest times for me as it is when we, as a team of seven, regroup and discuss the previous week by looking at the numbers of products sold and any sales trends. We then formulate a plan of action, sometimes tweaking the merchandising in order to achieve our best sales potential. We change the window merchandising on a regular basis and it has always been one of my favourite aspects of working in retail because you are creating the environment for the ultimate customer experience. We follow the guidelines from Longchamp’s head office in Paris to keep consistency throughout all of our boutiques but we also tweak things to keep the display dynamic – many customers pass by our shop on a regular basis and we like to offer them something new each time they visit. We might also have to change the display because a particular style sells out. It is really all about planning ahead and getting ready for the coming week, in particular the weekend, which tends to be our busiest time for footfall.
We also talk about customer service at the beginning of the week, discussing ways to improve, to provide the best shopping experience to our customers. This shared time gives the team the opportunity to refocus and take the necessary steps to do better.
Fashion has always been a passion of mine, so when the opportunity presented itself to be part of this industry it felt very natural. As a kid in a small town in Wąbrzeźno, Poland, access to the latest in design was difficult but I always had ideas and would sketch my own garments before asking local tailors to help me make clothes. At the time it was for fun, but looking back, maybe I wanted to be a fashion designer.
I moved to the UK in 2004 and started an English course at the Callan School on London’s Oxford Street before getting a job as a sales assistant at designer store House of Hanover, on Hanover Street, where I worked for almost two years.
My path within Longchamp started in 2007 when I was appointed sales assistant of the boutique on New Bond Street. I then progressed to supervisor level in 2010 when one of my colleagues went on maternity leave and I was given the chance to cover her responsibilities as supervisor. I got that position through my passion for the brand, determination, hard work and self-motivation. When Longchamp opened its new boutique in Westfield London in 2012, I was appointed assistant manager. Last year’s promotion to store manager is definitely the highlight of my career so far.
Today Longchamp is developing its international presence. We have new stores opening every month in Europe, Asia and the US. In my eight years at the company I’ve seen that development here in London. Originally there was only one boutique on New Bond Street, then the second on Regent Street. Then there was the creation of one of our biggest flagship stores on Regent Street in 2013.
Since its creation in 1993, Le Pliage has been Longchamp’s bestselling bag worldwide but my personal favourite this season is the Penelope line (£555). It’s a classic style with modern touches and a slightly sporty feel.
My favourite international market remains Paris. I love the glamour, the fashion, the designers and the French elegance. Every time I’m in Paris for Longchamp’s new collection presentation and catwalk shows, it’s like living a dream. I’m lucky enough to go to Paris twice a year to get an insight into the new season collection. While in Paris we partake in sales meetings and place orders for our stores, so we can start the season fully stocked and ready to go.
The Longchamp Penelope
A lot of people see a manager as being strong, tough and decisive, but I believe that one of the most important things for a manager to be is a great people person. During my time in the Westfield boutique I’ve managed up to 10 people at a time, although at the moment I manage a team of seven. A good manager is always there for their team, listening to them and helping them grow – more by example than anything else. I take pride in helping my colleagues to grow within the company, making sure they are reaching their true potential. I love to share my knowledge and experience with them – it makes their training more personal.
In the industry, there are two women I truly admire. Coco Chanel modernised the role of women in fashion, as a main character and not only a supporting role. Longchamp’s director of boutiques, Madame Michèle Cassegrain, is also an inspiration. She is a woman who is leading by example – always working, always active, always with passion and enthusiasm. I have seen this with my own eyes in the eight years I have been with the company. She is also very kind to others and she really does make us feel part of the family. She is a truly modern female role model.
Looking back at when I was 18 and living at home in Poland, I would tell myself to be brave, confident, to go forward and look only at the bright future ahead. What does not kill you makes you stronger and mistakes help you grow.
My key advice would be to keep your contacts up to date because the retail landscape is constantly changing and it’s important to have a thorough understanding of the market. Secondly, always be your true self as people will respect this. Your reputation always arrives first to the party.
One thing I figured out by trying, succeeding (and sometimes failing) is that what is logical for you is not necessarily logical for others. Always be ready for the unexpected and be grateful for the opportunities life brings you.
If I was not in the fashion industry I would have used my skills in mathematics and logical thinking to work in finance or banking, which complements my diploma in banking from the Economic School Administration in Bydgoszcz, Poland. I could have seen myself as a great businesswoman with impeccable taste, beautiful shoes and an amazing leather bag by my side.
1997-1999 – Diploma of Higher Education in Banking, Economic School Administration of Bydgoszcz, Poland
September 2004 – September 2005 – General English course, Callan School, London
July 2014 – Present – Store manager, Longchamp, Westfield
September 2012 – July 2014 – Assistant store manager, Longchamp, Westfield
September 2007 – September 2012 – Sales assistant/senior sales assistant/supervisor, Longchamp, New Bond Street
March 2005 – September 2007 – Sales assistant, House of Hanover, London