What does a Fashion Buyer really do? MYER experts guide us through the A-Z of Buying for Fashion
Forget what you think you know about Buying in Fashion. We speak to the experts, and uncover the A-Z of working as a Buyer in the fast-paced, sometimes demanding and ever-changing industry of fashion.
Fashion Networker chats to MYER Allocation Analyst, Maddie McMahon
Tell us about what you do and your role as an Allocation Analyst for Myer...
As an Allocation Analyst, I am responsible for the execution of supplier and store level sales, order raising, monitoring delivery schedules of stock from the supplier to the floor, identifying sales opportunities (& missed sales opportunities!), ensuring accurate quantification and allocation of stock to stores, liaising with both the local & international supply chain and analysis of product trends and store performance. I also assist in the execution of promotion/marketing plans, post season range review and strategic analysis.
How long have you been working in your field? Do you think the role of a Fashion Buyer has changed in the last 10 years?
I have been working in my current role as an Allocation Analyst for approximately 8 months but was working in a similar role with a supplier company for 18 months prior to my commencement at Myer.
I certainly believe that the role of buying has shifted in the last 10 years. Our reliance on technology and implemented software systems has dramatically changed the face of buying. Whilst the fundamentals such as overseas buying trips, trend forecasting and sample analysis are still relevant, new computer based planning tools have restricted the way in which a buyer can range their seasons. There is more emphasis on stricter planning to ensure fewer style options return a higher margin.
In terms of allocating, new software is enabling us to make better judgment calls on product sizing and store specific buying curves meaning higher stock sell through and fewer markdowns – the perfect combination!
In terms of a 'Buying Hierarchy', where do you fit in? Who is your boss and who do you oversee?
Within a buying team, there are two streams of discipline, ‘Buying’ and ‘Planning’. An Allocation Analyst reports to the Planner and is part of the Planning side of the business. The Planner directly manages the AA, although, we work closely with the Buying team to ensure our common goal is achieved. There are currently 7 members in my team: Buyer/Product Developer, Planner, Planner in Training, Allocation Analyst, Product Developer Assistant, Buyers Assistant and the Design Coordinator. We all report into the Merchandise Manager who overseas total Womenswear trade.
What is a typical day like for yourself and the Myer team?
A typical day at Myer would involve, grabbing a coffee with the work guys before sitting down and browsing through competitor EDMs and websites for inspiration on trends, prints, colours and interesting details, forwarding any good finds to our team members for future reference. Next we usually have a team meeting to discuss direction for the day/week, personal workloads and to check out the new product that has arrived from our suppliers – my favourite part!
We then settle in for the day, which in my case involves running and analysing daily sales & store reports and contacting any stores that look low/high on sales/stock to discuss their strategy and execution. I then continue my day by allocating stock to stores and raising new product orders. We are currently working on our Summer 2019 range and planning this involves a high level of data analysis including past performance, size analysis and product type analysis. It will be a key focus for us over the coming weeks.
What is Myer's buying process? How do you go about placing orders with brands?
As my team’s brand is a product development brand, i.e. we design and manufacture the goods rather than buying from a wholesale supplier, the process is a little different to traditional buying.
The Buyer is given a trend report, created by the design team, and an assortment Plan, built by the Planner, and heads off on a seasonal buying trip – usually to Paris, London, LA and later to China – where they shop for the latest trends and fashion pieces and purchase samples to bring back to Australia. Whilst on the China trip, they will meet with the factories and suppliers to work up costing’s for the garments, ensuring that the materials are ethically sourced and working conditions are up to standard.
Once the goods are designed, costed and the materials have been sourced, the Buyer and Planner work together to quantify the units they wish to place and ensure that the margin is achieved, taking into consideration production costs, shipping costs and currency conversion. Following quantification and price establishment, the Allocation Analyst will raise the orders, which are sent to the suppliers.
Once received, the manufacturer can begin constructing the garments and will keep the team updated as to any issues such as excess fabric consumption or potential delays due to alterations in garment design. There are often unforeseeable circumstances that may cause delays/cancellations so it is essential that you maintain a good relationship with your overseas suppliers and factories to ensure a smooth manufacture process and on-time delivery into stores.
So how do you know what will work and what styles will sell well?
It is always hard to tell which styles will attract the attention of the customer and which will be a complete disaster! A lot of range development is based on previous sales data and in-depth analysis of what has worked for us in the past, and what has not. Once we identify a shape that has been successful, we will stick with it, updating the print/colour and a few of the design elements to ensure that it is trend focused.
Where a style has not been received well by the customer, we analyse where it went wrong and how we could improve this in the future. We will not repeat the same shape again and look at investing our money in an alternative construction.
Fashion can be fickle and the customer often doesn't change as quickly as a trend does, so making small changes to product you know works, is a lot safer than dramatically changing it to be trend focused and hoping for the best!
Myer often holds in-store fashion parades throughout Fashion Week, which are open to the public and are a good showcase of up and coming trends and designers.
I would highly recommend reading ‘Fashion Journal’ which is a fantastic FREE monthly print publication that has its finger on the pulse when it comes to trends, international style, Australian runways and free public events which are always a lot of fun to attend. It is an easy way to keep up to date with the fashion industry.
Do you work mainly in an office, or are you mostly on- the- go?
I mainly work from the Myer Head Office but often visit our stores, as they are able to provide invaluable customer feedback and give us insights into trade that we cannot read from a report. We also often have meetings at the offices of our local suppliers to discuss our WIP garments, potential repeats and future orders. When I get a chance, I find a ‘competitor walk’ extremely valuable. This ensures that we keep up to date with our competitors and their range offering. It also gives good insight into visual merchandising and how our competitor brands are drawing customers into their stores.
What do you find most satisfying about your job?
My favourite part of the role is sitting in post season and reviewing all the decisions that you made over the past 6 months that led to an excellent sell through on a particular style. Planning, buying/product development and selling is a long process and it is so satisfying to see the culmination of many, many months work come together.
I LOVE that everyday, no matter how menial or how hard the task, I am working in an industry I adore, with product that I have a passion for. I get to work with clothes every day of my working life, what’s not to love about that!?
What advice would you give to someone starting out in the fashion industry and wants to get into Buying?
It can seem like a long and tedious process working your way up from a Buyer’s Assistant to a Senior Buyer but I would strongly encourage everyone to stick with it. If you work hard, take on advice from your mentors, make sure you learn the financials inside and out, ask to take on extra responsibilities, take the time to visit stores & talk to customers, keep in the loop with fashion around the world and keep a finger on the pulse, your progression will be a lot quicker than first anticipated. Buying is truly a career where you are doing something you love and feel like you’ve never work a day in your life.