15 May, 2017

FROM SKETCH TO SALES – BUYING AT M&S

If you can combine a creative eye for colour and style with a shrewd business head, you’re cut out for a career in Buying at M&S. That’s the view of Alexis, a Junior Buyer in Womenswear.

Alexis joined us with a degree in Fashion Business Management. After starting as a Graduate Assistant Buyer in Childrenswear, she moved around various areas of Womenswear, from Skirts and Trousers to Denim and finally Tops. Now, she is running a £150m department, driving a team to deliver profitable performance.

“I was attracted to M&S because it’s a huge, high-profile business,” says Alexis. “Everyone has an opinion on M&S and our products, and the press loves to know what we’re doing. We’re constantly pushing the boundaries of style, redefining our brands and looking to grow market share - so there’s always something new to tap into.”

On a day-to-day basis, Alexis works alongside our Design team and draws on the inspiration of catwalks to develop a range of tops that will be loved by our customers and hit our margin targets. She also works closely with Sourcing Offices to find the right fabrics and negotiate the best price; Merchandising to build the range and back the right styles; and Press & Marketing to promote our hero pieces.

Alexis gets a real buzz developing and trading the number one line in Womenswear. “I love the process of bringing a drawing to life – working from the initial sketch and collaborating with suppliers to develop wearable and commercial products. I can’t tell you how exciting it is when you see your product selling well in the store, being worn by women in the street and getting great feedback.”

Alexis loves sourcing new products and chasing best sellers through trading, but Buying is not without its challenges. The pace is incredibly fast and deadlines are non-negotiable when it comes to making sure that we get the next big thing before a competitor. As Alexis knows only too well.

“We’d missed an embroidery trend that the Design team felt strongly about. We needed to get the product from India, and develop and book a range within two weeks – the process typically takes nine weeks. So we sent a brief to the Sourcing Office with catwalk tears and fabric swatches and within two days I was flying to India to go round suppliers and pick their latest developments. I built the collection, negotiated the cost prices and brought back 20 pieces in a suitcase, which were signed off by a Director that same week!”

Alexis’s development has been constantly supported by senior figures and mentors in Buying, but you have to be prepared to drive your own success. “It’s a dynamic environment. So, as well as having creativity and a commercial mindset, you need to be open to change. You have to be someone who is keen to step up to the plate and take on new responsibilities and projects. It’s also important that you can work well with your team and collaborate with people in different parts of the business.”

If that sounds like you, explore a career in Buying with M&S.

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