Joules’ European wholesale director explains why she shifted her focus away from merchandising – and has never looked back.
I start my day with a strong cup of Yorkshire Tea. Once I’ve got my three-year-old daughter, Betsy, ready for the day I try to catch up on the news and read my emails before I reach the office so I can hit the ground running. The Joules UK and EU wholesale function is represented by a team of 36, a mix of account managers and agents, many of whom are travelling, so I check to see if anything has come in overnight and that they have everything they need for their early appointments.
Mondays are all about trade and looking at how we’ve performed, not just in wholesale but across the business. We have a team meeting with our chief executive, Colin Porter, and all the directors to discuss how the different channels have performed and opportunities to move stock across the business. For example, product might not be working for wholesale but we could move it into retail and pick up new sales in season. In-season business has been incredible for us this autumn 15, I think because we’re getting stronger at leveraging our multichannel business.
In the UK I manage a commercial manager, who looks after a team of national account managers who each specialise in menswear, womenswear, kidswear, accessories and home, making a seven-strong team. Then I manage 14 agents across Europe and three country specialists and managers, part of a wider team of 28. I think the way we carve up wholesale is key to its success. We have created mini experts at both product and geographical level.
My background up until the past two and a half years was entirely in merchandising, working my way up from allocator to senior merchandiser, which is the position I held at Joules before I left for my maternity leave in February 2013. When I returned, Colin and Tom [Joule, company founder] were keen to have a more commercial brain in the wholesale department and thought of me.
Moving into wholesale was a complete leap of faith, but it’s the best decision I’ve ever made. What I love about working in wholesale compared to merchandising is the customer engagement. While I don’t have a background in sales, my merchandising experience helps to add credibility when I chat to buyers and merchandisers as we’re speaking the same language. That helps to build trust with key buyers. It is a privilege to present the product to customers and watch their reaction.
At Joules the wholesale team has a real input into the product as we are a key link to the customer. We sit in on all the selection meetings and are actively involved in shaping the collection.
In the UK we have 515 independent stockists, such as the House of Bruar in Perthshire, Coes of Ipswich and Psyche in Middlesbrough, as well as 53 house accounts including John Lewis, Next, Selfridges, Amazon and even the holiday company Center Parcs. So, from a lifestyle point of view, we span many different types of accounts. Even though the UK is our most mature market, our independent stockists continue to surpass expectations.
In Europe Joules has 355 accounts including Zalando, which is going from strength to strength, as well as German footwear giant Goertz and Kiki Kids Wear, a chain of German independents. We have also just signed representatives in Sweden for footwear and Denmark for womenswear.
I’m really excited by opportunities in Germany, which is our biggest EU market. They love the Joules colour and print. We have a German country manager, as well as eight agents and a showroom in Düsseldorf.
I have just returned from the launch of the autumn 16 collection at our Düsseldorf showroom. I like to balance the amount of time I’m in the office and out on trips. I think it is important to have a presence, but I also trust my team to represent the business on my behalf.
My next trip is to Panorama in Berlin this month, where we will be showcasing the autumn 16 collection. We’ve stepped up our approach to the show, taking a larger stand and adding more interactive elements to showcase our colour and print. I went to Panorama for the first time in July last year and was blown away by the scale and the amount of UK buyers present. It is an important show to see our established accounts, as well as start initial conversations with new customers. I think our presence at the show tells customers that we are serious about Europe.
A key thing I’ve learnt is that I can’t do it all myself and teamwork is central to the success of the department. It has been interesting for me to go from a focused merchandiser and evolve my mindset to broaden my skills. I have also learnt to trust my instincts, from product to people. Ultimately, it is most important to recognise and reward hard work. A simple thank you goes such a long way.
It is so important to wind down after a busy day and I love watching TV, especially a good detective series like Luther. I try not to email at night, but life is so busy that I try to devote some time to getting organised for the day ahead.
Anyone who knows me will know I have enough cosmetics to sink a ship, so a huge aspiration of mine was to be a make-up artist. When I was a teenager, I got to go behind the scenes on film sets as some of my family worked in the industry and I thought working on make-up for film would be amazing. But I’m so glad things have worked out differently.
June 2015-present European wholesale director, Joules
February 2014-June 2015 Head of UK wholesale, Joules
March 2013-January 2014 Commercial manager, UK Wholesale, Joules
July 2009-February 2013 Senior merchandiser, womenswear, Joules
March 2008-July 2009 Merchandiser, homeware, Next
June 2007-February 2008 Junior merchandiser, womenswear, Next
September 2006-June 2007 Assistant merchandiser, womenswear, Next
Oct 2002-September 2006 Assistant merchandiser, Bonmarché
Sept 2000-Sept 2002 Demand planner, Mothercare Nursery Supplier