Samantha Peters - Assistant Merchandiser
A Merchandiser trades ranges within M&S. For example, I'm involved with all the thermal underwear and Bridget Jones-style 'magic knickers' you could want to buy. We work with the Buyers to find the right product. I mainly do the research behind what's sold before, and what we think can sell in the future. The Buyer will then pick the product, then I will place an order with the supplier and make sure it gets into stores in time.
Within Buying you're there at the design brief, with the design team, discussing future trends. You then go away and think about what products you'd like to introduce into the range, and brief your suppliers. And then once you have the product you negotiate for the best price. So to be a Buyer you have to be tenacious, and fashion-forward. Within Merchandising you then take the product after it's been finalised with the supplier and you then plan how much you want to buy of it, when it's going to come in, how it's going to get to store. And then it's all about keeping it in-store, maintaining good availability so every customer can come in and get it whenever they want.
I'm normally in around 8am. I check yesterday's sales to see how we did, look at our top 20 sales from stores the previous day and how our overall sales have been and what we need to plan for. I'll be looking at that and analysing it for most of the day.
We have very specific jobs for specific days within Merchandising: Monday is all about last week's sales and how we can drive next week's sales; Tuesday is all about trading, so we'll pick up on things which happened last week. For instance, are there any best-sellers that look as though they're going to run out. Then the rest of the week is spent planning, working with the Buyers, range-building - if we're coming up to a big sign-off for example.
No two days are the same. Every day you may be doing similar tasks but always with different ranges or products. Last year I was lucky enough to take a trip to our office in Turkey, in order to book some more thermal underwear - as we saw 'the big freeze' coming in December. We had to make sure we had enough for our customers. I was told on a Monday I was going; flew out on the Wednesday; was home on the Friday. So it was a really fast, fashion-response trip to make sure we got those items in-store for customers in December - luckily the freeze came!
Lingerie is quite a girly environment, although we do have a few guys to help keep the gossip down. M&S has quite a good mix of age groups so there are young people starting as graduates, young people who have come straight out of school into positions, and there's also the M&S "Stay Award" as we call them: people who have been there for 20 or even 30 years! So the young people help keep it fun, while the older and wiser people are there for good advice.
Within Merchandising, you need to have an analytical brain; it's quite maths-based. You will spend a lot of your time in front of spreadsheets. You also need to be a very good communicator, for speaking to your Buyers and suppliers.
My advice? Walk along the high street, go into some stores, and try to pick out what you think their best-sellers would be: see how they've displayed them in-store, how many they have out, how many sizes they have out. So that when you go to an interview you can show you've actually done some research.
I really enjoy the fact that a lot of hard work goes into things - that you've planned something properly - then you see them selling really well in-stores. For me, the best thing is that every customer can go into every M&S and get their product in the size they want.