My first job in retail – Jon Bennett

Curiosity for the ever-changing and fast-paced landscape of the retail sector has resulted in a string of interviews with the industry’s leading professionals, sharing their insights and the experiences that have led to their current positions.

Group Buying and Sourcing Director at Arcadia and The Retail Practice Fashion Director, Jon Bennett, gives us a snapshot of his career journey…

“Surprisingly, my early experiences working at a well-known bank proved hugely valuable, as I did and still do enjoy working with numbers. However I found banking wasn’t creative enough, and I moved quickly into what has been 20+ years in retail. My first role at River Island was within the Menswear division as a Stock Allocator working for a Merchandiser who has been a close friend ever since – she taught me a lot!

When I started at River Island it was my responsibility to allocate stock across the entire store portfolio within the Buying and Merchandising function. I quickly understood the significance of making sure that the right stock is in the right place at the right time to maximise sales, and my interest in buying and the product range as well as stock management made Buying & Merchandising an obvious career path to follow.

The highly respected on-the-job training and fast-paced trading environment I experienced at River Island were immensely useful in creating the perfect grounding for my career, as well as giving me an understanding of how to operate in fast-fashion retail at the highest stakes, and work for a private family.

One of the key things I remember from those days was the danger of the ‘repeat’ order, and that Newness Is King! Even if you place your bestsellers back on the shop floor, the style almost always stops selling by the second delivery. You need a fresh offering to keep customers coming back, and stop them becoming complacent. It’s also the best job in the world to be a Buyer and to constantly renew and refresh your range.

These days it is more difficult than ever to enter the industry, and rise up through the ranks. However the dynamism and excitement that this job delivers every day makes it one of the most rewarding areas of the fashion industry to work in.

You don’t often get the chance to travel the world and trade the way you do in Retail Buying – it’s a career for life, so don’t give up!”