How to land a grad job: fashion merchandising

We chat to Stephanie Ashwood, a third year Economics student, about her upcoming role as Tescos Assistant Junior Merchandiser, and how she got it

Stephanie Ashwood is a third year Economics student. She used Milkround to make applications for banking and insurance internships in her second year, before applying to merchandising graduate roles this year. In this two part series, she describes what her upcoming role as Tescos Assistant Junior Merchandiser will entail, and how she got there.

Firstly, Steph, explain what the ‘merchandising’ sector is for those not in the know.

Well obviously, the buyers’ job is choosing what items to sell. And the merchandisers work quite closely with them because they tell the buyers what trends are happening based on figures, and merchandisers choose how much of products to put in what store, at what time, and at what price.

So it’s all very economics-based?

Yeah, obviously that’s all done on equations, which you’re given and it’s quite methodical. Merchandising can actually create quite a lot of profit because if they can see it’s going to be a cold spell, like at the moment, having a lot of knitwear in a store at that time, the right time, can make a lot of difference between profit and no profit.

Specific to your Tescos role now – are you just responsible for clothes, or are you responsible for other items too?

I’m in the UK clothing sector – they can’t tell me whether I’ll be in ladies wear or menswear because it’s quite far in advance – I don’t start until September.

At least it’s not clothing for North Korea though…

Actually – they’re big in China at the moment. It’s cracking over there.

And what is the structure of the graduate scheme?

In a Tesco Extra store, I’ll be working in a clothing department for four weeks. Everyone who works in top office has had to work in a store. The current CEO of Tescos started on a Tesco graduate scheme so it just shows what you can do!

Where does it go from then on?

I do a week in head office, then four in store, and then straight back into the office. As an Assistant Junior Merchandiser I will be assisting the Assistant Merchandiser.

You have a love of fashion – do you see yourself later trying to transfer into the buying route or do you want to stick with economic side?

I’m quite happy keeping something with my economic skills. I never actually choose a product – that is the buyer’s final say. You can just advise.

And obviously Tescos is an international brand and in the UK, there’s a Tescos in every single city, so what are the opportunities for career advancement?

I know once I’ve done the two-year graduate scheme it will be easier as I will already be at the work level – I can move up to become a Junior Merchandiser, and then an Assistant Merchandiser, then a Merchandiser, and then it will be head of a team.

If there were one tip you knew before you started applying that you’d give to a first or second year, what would you say?

Definitely, get involved. Do use the societies. Also, having a part-time job shows that someone is willing to pay you to work and gives you a reference.

And where do you see yourself in five years time?

Hopefully, still at Tescos – it is only a 15-minute drive from my house!

I know for some people location is a deal-breaker when finding a job, was that true for you?

Yeah, for me, because I live in Hertfordshire, so a 40-minute commute into London, I looked at anything in London or Hertfordshire, nothing more than an hour’s commute. I’m living at home for a few years to save up, so I guess Tescos is the best thing that could happen to me.

Finally, the part everyone wants to know – what does your graduate package entail?

A salary of between £22,000 – £28,000. You’re allowed to take months off for however long you’ve been there – a sabbatical, they’d say. Also, there’s a 10% discount after six months of working there. It will help the food bills won’t it, especially when I’m living on my own. A pension scheme and shares in the company are other benefits offered.

The other good thing about Tescos is that they have a graduate society within Tescos – they do a buddy system, so you’re buddied up with a graduate who’s already on the scheme. I think they like to make sure everyone who’s moving to that area will know people there.

To find out about the application process for merchandising roles like this, look out for part II of How to Land a Grad Job: Fashion Merchandising (Tescos).

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