What is a Divisional Merchandising Manager? FRA speaks to Urban Outfitters...
An Interview with the Divisional Merchandising Manager at Urban Outfitters
Fashion Retail Academy recently caught up with the Urban Outfitters Divisional Merchandising Manager, Kris Babet, about how he worked his way up in the fashion industry and what advice he has for Fashion Retail Academy students.
Could you tell us a bit about your current role?
My title is the Men’s Apparel DMM, which stands for Divisional Merchandising Manager but that’s quite an American term. Essentially its Men’s Apparel Buying Manager. I look after all the men’s apparel whether that’s on the branded side, own brand, or graphic t-shirts. If you can wear it on your body and it’s not footwear or an accessory, that’s me.
What is a typical day in the life of Head of Menswear Buying for Urban Outfitters?
Day to day, I will come in and see what’s urgent: Do I need to look at any brands’ orders to sign off? Do I have any brand appointments where I have to go and view the range? We will also check the figures from the last day to see if we have done well in terms of trade. If we’ve done practically well – we’ll look at what has and hasn’t sold? What’s sticking? What’s going to cause problems?
What is your background?
My first job was working in Hugo Boss in their sales office, which was great for me. After that, I started working in a men’s independent store on weekends. Then I worked for a company called Cecil Gee part time. Following that, I worked for Box Fresh.
I ended up going to work at Kenzo in the January and summer sale seasons. It was at that point that I knew it was buying that I wanted to get in to. A sales agency is where I then made my progression. I worked up from being part time, to working in-store, to manager, to being a buyer.
I then went on to work for a store called A Butcher of Distinction in trade, which is just off Brick Lane. I was lucky enough that Lee, who is the Urban Outfitters Buying Director used to come in-store a lot. Lee told me about an opportunity to work at Urban Outfitters. It was a no brainer so I took the job and here I am. Ten years later and I’m still here. I started as assistant buyer and now I’m the men’s Divisional Merchandising Manager.
What inspired you to work in menswear buying?
I think it was a combination of factors, growing up we always had to be quite smart for family parties, church and things like that. So in terms of dress education that was always in me. The experiences I had in show rooms and trade shows also made me think ‘I could probably do that better’.
What do you enjoy most about your role at Urban Outfitters?
I like that when you walk into a show room, you see a great range, but also missed opportunities. At UO we’ve got the ability to build the range that’s missing. We have the opportunity to fully look at the range and put what’s missed in so you can always give a guy a reason to come to UO.
What’s the most challenging part of your role?
It’s a very busy, very stressful job. Its long hours and you work weekends, you have to put a lot in. You do it because you love it but sometimes it can be challenging. I also think it’s difficult finding the right people. It’s hard to replace someone when they leave with somebody just as good.
What are your three top tips for a career in buying?
- You need to be organised because time management is one of the most important things.
- Communication is key. If you let people know what’s going on then they won’t hassle you.
- Be into it (fashion and buying), you can tell the ones that are to the ones that are into their role and the ones that aren’t. The ones that are into their role are a lot more successful.
Do you have any advice to current and future students of Fashion Retail Academy?
Stick with it, try and get as much experience as you can, wherever you can. Try and get experience where you can be as hands on as you can.
If you want to be a footwear buyer work in a footwear shop, even if somewhere else offers better money. You’re planning what you’re going to do for the rest of your life and that’s what’s going to pay off in the end, so just think about what you’re doing for your part time jobs and what it says about you.
Our course details for Level 4 Merchandising can be found here.