To kick off the series, we had a chat with Vestan Low, Senior Merchandising Manager of Men's Department for Robinson's and found out that there's more to a buyer's job than what most people assume (and no, it's not one big shopping party).
Hi Vestan! What exactly do you do at Robinsons and can you share with us some of the brands you're responsible for bringing in?
I'm the Senior Merchandising Manager of the Men's Department for Robinsons. My role is to be responsible for leading the Menswear team to achieve our company's objectives. Besides working towards financial goals, sourcing of new brands and products, as well as conceptualising retail concepts are two other key components of the job.
My buying team and I have collectively brought in BlackBarrett, Wood Wood, Denham the Jeanmaker with Art Comes First Collaboration, Northskull, Tiger Of Sweden, Adolfo Dominguez, New Balance, Jil Sander Men's Footwear, A+ Men's Footwear and Analogue+. We are always looking out for suitable brands and products that would resonate well with our customers. In merchandising, teamwork and effort are paramount to accomplishing tasks; nothing can be achieved without the unwavering support from my team.
Complete the sentence: "When I tell people what I do, they think..."
They think fashion merchandising is a glamorous job where we get to travel around the world frequently and are always exposed to seeing new stuff and happenings. These are common preconceived notions.
But in reality, what is it really like?
A lot of times the reality of the job involves working towards the objectives of the company. It's very much balancing the "Science" and "Arts" aspects of the job. For Science, it would be managing the financials like sales and profits objectives, which is a huge scope of our what we do. While for Arts, it refers to the creative and interesting side of our job, such as conceptualising a new concept for the upcoming seasons, and curating pop-up shops and spaces to attract customers to visit the stores.
Truth to be told, a lot of hard work and follow-ups are required, and there is never a moment of rest. Our jobscope also entails liaising with both local and foreign vendors, as well as constantly sourcing for suitable and adjacent brands.
In addition, people management is another challenging task as taking care of human feelings and dealing with emotions can be a tricky affair. We have to manage the expectations of both superiors and subordinates, and be mindful to ensure everyone works towards a common goal.
What's a typical day like for you during buying season?
A typical day during buying season involves meeting with several brands or vendors — both existing and new — within one day. The typical day starts early in the morning with the analysis of the various business performances and sell-through, which will follow by the selection of new season's collections till evening. Prior to that, we have to plan for season budgetting and after-buying follow-ups.
In reality, our buying season continues through till the purchased collections drop into the stores. Thereafter, we will have to monitor the sales figure till the new season ends, with end of season sale, and then the whole cycle repeats.
What's your favourite and least favourite part of your job?
My favourite part of the job would be receiveing compliments from both customers and management for the hard work I've done. Such encouragement gives me a great sense of achievement and spurs me to think creatively and strive to create even better work the next time.
The least favourite part of the job happens when the team is unable to reach a consensus at times as everyone has a different opinion, which may not be customer-oriented and/or does not align with the company's objectives. However, great challenges often bring along great sense of achievements.