Dune’s visual merchandising manager on why swapping store management for VM is the best move she’s ever made.
My morning really depends on where I am on any given day. If we have a new store opening or window change then I’ll be up early to action everything with the team. A lot of what I do needs to be done outside of store trading hours, so 4.30am wake-up calls are a big part of the job.
My weeks are pretty unpredictable, everything from new season launches to budget forecasting or opening a new store. Monday’s comprise of trade meetings, answering emails and liaising with the buyers and merchandisers at head office in central London. I need to maintain a good commercial understanding of what’s happening in the business. I also discuss priorities for the week ahead with my four person VM team.
I have brainstorming sessions with marketing, PR and ecommerce before each season and campaign launches to ensure we’re delivering a consistent message. Interaction is key and I believe getting up and walking across the floor to speak to other departments will get you the answer quicker.
Our VM department is a key link between head office and stores. I’m always speaking to the managers of our UK and US flagships in London, Glasgow, Manchester, Dublin and New York about trade, which helps us decide on floor layout for the upcoming week. We tweak store layouts weekly, so if sales of a specific style are slow we’ll think about how to make it more prominent.
A wholesale layout change occurs every two to three weeks, which is rolled out internationally. It’s imperative to see how the range is looking in-store, so I aim to be out in-store at least three days a week. These full season launches occur twice a year, normally the second week in February for spring and the first week in September for autumn.
We change our window schemes twice a season, but the product changes weekly as we receive new styles. Our floor layouts change every two to three weeks depending on trade. We have amazing store managers in who are really commercial and react when it’s needed. There’s nowhere to hide a slow selling style.
Dune’s catwalk on the ceiling
I moved to London nearly 11 years ago from my hometown of Dublin as I wanted to be in the retail capital. When I met Jo Costis, the then manager of Dune’s South Molton Street store, I was so inspired by her passion for the brand. Moving from a store management role to VM seemed natural. As a store manager I had been involved with VM quite a lot. Making the switch was definitely the right decision.
I loved that our founder Daniel Rubin would visit the South Molton Street store weekly and listen to our feedback on product and trade. I admire the fact that he listens so avidly to our comments and is still really involved in the business.
Our signature catwalk on the ceiling is my favourite in-store layout. As a brand we use an outside design company called Four by Two for our layout ideas, which we then implement ourselves. We’re in the process of rolling out this refit to all Dune stores.
I think our spring 2016 campaign drives home our London roots as all the promotional photographs we taken in London and show the capital’s skyline in the background. For the window schemes we’ve taken key seasonal colours such as electric lime and blood orange, which helps make the product look really strong.
The biggest change in my career was when Dune acquired the Shoe Studio group in 2009. We went from less than 40 Dune solus stores to more than 200 stores and multi-branded concessions. This was a massive challenge, adapting to working with different store types and developing guidelines for each brand.
I get inspired by other cities, especially as I travel a lot and different cultures make for some very interesting finds. While it’s important for us to keep our brand identity, I do take note of other store layouts like Kurt Geiger, Aldo and Office, especially at the beginning of the season and at Christmas.
The best thing about my job day to day is the versatile, passionate and loyal colleagues who have grown to be friends. As shopping habits change and more sales come from online, maximising our store environments is even more important.
I’d be a florist. Running a flower shop with a large craft table where people can make beautiful things. I love visiting Columbia Road flower market and spending the day arranging flowers. I recently completed a part-time floristry course.
2002 – Leaving certificate (Irish equivalent of A Levels)
2011 – Present Visual merchandising manager, Dune
2007 – 2011 Senior visual merchandising specialist, Dune
2005 – 2007 Floating store manager, Dune, central London stores
2002 – 2005 Visual merchandising manager Pull & Bear, stores throughout Ireland