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Suzannah Gray

Sales manager, James Lakeland

What does your job involve?

No two days are the same. I’m either showing the [mainstream womenswear brand] James Lakeland collection to potential customers or selling to our existing customers. I work closely with [designer] James Lakeland himself and our wholesale customers to make sure they get the right product at the right time. I also research potential future business and which retailers should sell our product in the UK. This involves networking, sending information and communicating with our clients. We send brand information to the clients, usually by email, or we send marketing brochures by post, which I think is better than emailing. With email, it’s the easy option in some cases but not as effective.

What skills do you need?

You need to be a good communicator, have lots of experience in dealing with different types of people and plenty of product knowledge. You have to keep an eye on changing trends and be an ambassador for the product. Numerical skills are important and a broad understanding of the market is vital.

What do you like and dislike about your job?

I love working with my customers and I love the product. At James Lakeland the product is made in Italy and some of the team can speak Italian, but I can’t. This is quite frustrating, as those that speak Italian find it much easier to communicate as we have to call Italy all the time.

How did you get to where you are today?

After graduating in Textile Management at Leeds University I came to London as a graduate trainee with Jaeger.

I then worked with Gap in its London head office as a junior sourcing/production manager before moving to Jigsaw in its [now defunct] menswear division. I then returned to Jaeger as a buyer. I got to know designer Joyce Ridings while working at Jaeger, and ran her first wholesale showroom in London for eight years. Last year I moved to James Lakeland where our sales are going from strength to strength.

What is your proudest career achievement to date?

Working with many large brands has been really helpful and I’m very proud of that. Your CV often gets picked up if you have a good portfolio of brands. Being a good networker is also important - knowing the right people is essential to progress in your career.

What is your ambition?

To build James Lakeland up even further - and to one day have my own brand agency.

How do you intend to get there?

By continuing to work with this great brand, gaining more exposure - while not forgetting to enjoy the ride.

What three words sum you up?

Positive, hard-working and fun-loving.

What advice would you give to someone wanting to follow in your footsteps?

Work hard - make sure you get lots of experience with large and small businesses and believe in yourself. You have to listen to your mentors and always make sure you ask lots of questions. People are always happy to help if they think you are eager to learn. l

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