Nicky's advice to graduates who’d like to break into merchandising is to get some work experience, and don’t be afraid to take on an entry-level role.
Nicky graduated from the University of Leicester in 2007 with a degree in Management Studies with Economics.
My degree gave me the opportunity to cover a wide range of topics, including management, marketing, the business environment, organisational change and development, international business and finance, strategy, accounting, and business ethics. During my studies, I was also able to develop my skills in writing, data analysis, presentation and teamwork.
In my final year, I went to see a careers adviser, and tried to describe the type of work I’d like to do. We discussed the role of a merchandiser, which seemed to tick a lot of the boxes in terms of what I’d been trying to explain. I soon realised that there weren’t many traditional graduate training schemes to enter this type of role, and I didn’t want to apply for one of the general commercial or finance trainee schemes offered by the major retailers, in the hope of being able to move into a head office merchandising function at a later date.
I felt ready to just get stuck in with a hands-on role, and as I knew very little about the business, I really didn’t mind starting in a junior level supporting role. I was lucky enough to get a job as a Merchandise Administration Assistant (MAA). Having gained lots of experience, I am just about to move companies to take up the role of Assistant Merchandiser within a Product Merchandising team, and this means that I report directly to the Merchandiser.
Aurora is a really exciting company to work for, as it owns, develops and manages the performance of some of the UK’s most respected women’s fashion brands, including Karen Millen, Oasis, Warehouse and Coast, all of which are aimed at the higher end of the market.
As an Assistant Merchandiser, I’ll be responsible for managing the department WSSIs (Weekly Sales, Stock and Intake), and I’ll get involved in the analysis of month end, season end, best and worst sellers and forward ranges. In this new role, I will be a lot more involved in contributing to commercial decisions. I will also be responsible for the management of future commitment, flows and markdowns. It’s a very exciting time for me, and I really want to work hard and make a good impression in my new job.
Looking at the senior teams I’ve worked with, I’d say that to be successful in merchandising, you need to have excellent communication skills and a high level of commercial awareness. Really strong organisational skills and a good grasp of IT are also really important. I’ve learned that you always need to take a proactive approach - things happen far too quickly in this environment for you to sit back and wait for it all to happen around you. Instead, you have to be confident that you know what you’re doing, and you have to challenge processes and people in order to deliver results.
The thing I love most about my job is working in a team of dedicated, talented and passionate people, who all really care about their brands and work hard to contribute to the success of those brands.
My advice to graduates who’d like to break into merchandising is to get some work experience, and don’t be afraid to take on an entry-level role. If you find a good company to work for, you’ll receive excellent training and learn loads from the people around you.
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