Shaun Foster - Assistant Merchandiser on Baby Girls Wovens (Jackets, Jeans, Skirts & Shorts)

Shaun - next

University: Sheffield Hallam
Course: Business Management

I began working for Next as a Trainee Merchandiser in February 2013. After first discovering the role of ‘Trainee Merchandiser’ on, I dismissed the idea initially as I presumed it was for visual merchandising! Having taken a closer look I realised it wasn’t and I was interested (not that there is anything wrong with Visual Merchandising J). I had always been half decent with numbers and had a keen eye for fashion!

My previous retail experience benefitted me in my application and upon joining the company. There were situations I could reference throughout the application process from initially applying online to the one-on-one interview and assessment centre. Having begun the job one of the focuses of Merchandising is monitoring stock levels in store and I could relate to that having seen firsthand the effect it has in stores.

Also, another advantage of working for the company before was knowing how well Next look after their employees. There is the 25% staff discount on clothing and Homeware, an excellent share save scheme and a very generous annual bonus correlating with the company performance.

The roles that a Merchandiser undertakes are varied as there are so many facets to the job. When describing the role to Undergrads at Careers fairs I tell them it involves juggling four seasons in three stages at once.

  1. Analysing sales in the current season. If they are best sellers – try and buy more. If they are poor sellers – why are they not selling & try to cancel out of any outstanding deliveries.
  2. Managing your supply chain for deliveries for the upcoming season
  3. Planning the range for the following season by analysing the season that you have just come out of!

This is just the tip of the iceberg in terms of what Merchandising involves. It is important to be very organised or you won’t be able to stay in control of the workload. It is very fast paced and hard work but extremely satisfying!

When I first joined the team at Head office, Next really looked after me. There is a house that the company own that you can stay after you join to help you settle into your new surroundings. The house is rent free and is managed by two friendly housekeepers. This means that for the first month or so you literally can focus solely on the job, settling in with your team and meeting other trainees. Your training itself will feature a lot of “on-the-job” training but also classroom style training not too dissimilar from seminars at University.

Within the first few months of you joining Next you will have a “Training week” held by a team of trainers to focus on your development. You will participate in this week with other new-starters comprising mostly of other trainees. I found this week a great way to get to know other people that were in the same shoes as me. Next is quite unique in the industry to have such a training format and it was hugely beneficial in my development. I found it a good balance to have both the “hands on” training at your desk from your Merchandiser and the Assistant Merchandiser, as well as being able to learn in a classroom with other new starters where you are all in the same boat.

When I have spoken to undergrads at careers fairs, some seem disheartened that our Head Office is in Leicester rather than London. I see it as a benefit. Leicester is a great city. With two Universities, two major sports teams and a vibrant city centre, there is always something to do. The cost of living is so much cheaper compared to London that you can afford to rent a nicer house and eat out at the nicer restaurants.

The best part of my job is working with great people. I work with buyers, designers and technologists as well as dealing with suppliers from around the world on a daily basis. I could be having a video conference with suppliers from Shanghai at 9.30am, building our range for the forthcoming season with my team before lunch then ranking our Jackets range for the Next Directory with my manager in the afternoon. Every day is different, every day is fast paced and every day I work with fantastic people.

If you have an analytical mind, good communication skills, an eye for fashion and the role excites you then I would recommend you apply!


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