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Suzanne Harlow

Group trading director, Debenhams

Having spent 15 years at Debenhams, Suzanne Harlow, the department store’s group trading director, is a clear example of how talent can be nurtured in-house.

Harlow began a love affair with fashion as a teenager when she enjoyed making her own clothes so it was no surprise that she went on to complete a degree in fashion textile design at Brighton Polytechnic. Her retail career began as a graduate trainee at Bhs in 1989  and that background stood Harlow in good stead when she first joined Debenhams as a womenswear buyer.

She moved on to buying kidswear and accessories before becoming buying and merchandising director for lingerie. Since then Harlow has gained in seniority adding accessories, hair and beauty and then womenswear to her list of responsibilities before becoming group trading director a year ago.

Harlow says her real love is product and finding new ways to move ranges on and her background covering many different product areas has helped her challenge and question the way things have been done traditionally at Debenhams. “I still feel relatively new to this role,” she says. “I’d love to run Debenhams one day but I don’t think Rob (Templeman, chief executive) is going anywhere just yet.”

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