My Fashion Journey: Paul Hayes, Menswear Buyer at House of Fraser
From what age did you know you wanted to work in fashion and retail/design?
When I left college I knew that I wanted to work in a creative industry – it was basically between fashion or the music industry – both cut throat industries and not easy to get into. I have always had an interest in cloth and trends so partnering that with an opportunity to move to London (a city I have always loved) made the decision for me. I approached the university, loved what I was learning and my career took off from there. I wouldn’t say I fell into the job but I certainly didn’t set out wanting to be a Buyer back when I was 16 – I don’t think I even knew what one was!
Which university did you attend, and which course did you take?
I studied Fashion Merchandising Management at the University of Westminster, although it was merchandising (numbers) based it covered many sectors of the retail business with a focus being on the role of the Buying Office.
How did you land the position at House of Fraser?
I was lucky enough to do a year-long internship in the House of Fraser Menswear Buying Office, this was organised through my university course. I made valuable contacts, worked extremely hard and was taken on full-time the week after I graduated.
What is your working week like? Job roles, the most fun parts, etc.
Every day starts with checking the daily sales so I can ensure I am aware of my department’s strengths and areas which need focus. After that each day really is different, it depends on the day of the week, Monday’s are full of trade meetings discussing the previous week’s sales and discussing opportunities for the following. If it’s buying season I may be out at trade shows or in the showrooms selecting the range, if it’s not buying season I might be in meetings either internally in our office or externally at our brands discussing performance. I also try to visit as many stores as possible; our own stores and also our competitors …you always have to be aware of who’s doing what on the high street/online. The best bit about the job? Not only is every day different, every season is too. I love the first visit to the trade show at the very beginning of the season and seeing what each brand is doing and the trends they are pushing– it’s very exciting.
Corsivo stocked at the House of Fraser
“Ask as many questions as possible and to try and get as much experience as possible in a buying office, unpaid if necessary – it’s all about contacts.”
Do you have any advice for graduates who hope to follow in your footsteps?
Firstly you need retail experience – it’s impossible to understand what stores and customers need if you don’t understand how a shop floor works. My other advice would be to ask as many questions as possible and to try and get as much experience as possible in a buying office, unpaid if necessary – it’s all about contacts. If you’re already in the business in any form, get to know the support functions around you and how they can help you raise your profile and do your job even more effectively. Read the trade press as well as the fashion magazines to get a more rounded idea on what makes the industry tick.
What is your inspiration?
I am inspired by a lot of things – not particular people or designers as such but I love to see a small company “make good”. I like to see a smaller brand, especially one you took a chance on, succeed. We have several smaller niche brands available on our website, www.houseoffraser.co.uk not available in store. With regards to personal drive, House of Fraser have over 60 stores around the world…I still get a buzz when I see a customer carrying one of our carrier bags or when I see a customer in one of our stores, picking up product that I’ve selected. On the flip side I also see customers carrying our competitor’s carrier bags, I don’t take it personally (you can’t) but it certainly drives you to think about what that customer wanted and why they shopped somewhere else other than your store.