Shopping is my career
Shopping for the latest home accessories is all in a day's work for Jarrold's homewares and gifts buyer Jennifer Read – in fact, she has recently won an award for it. Emma Harrowing went to meet her.
It's 6am and after a mere three hours' sleep Jennifer Read from Lowestoft is up and ready to start her day. As the homewares and gifts buyer for Jarrold's she flew to Frankfurt the night before and she would be leaving the German city by the end of the day.
Her working day ahead is tough, talking to existing and prospective clients, finding out about new home accessories and products, and negotiating the right price. By the end of the day her feet will be swollen after walking several miles through vast exhibition halls that are devoid of natural light and her throat is sore after talking all day.
As Jennifer talks to me about her recent buying trip to Frankfurt any illusions that being a buyer and being paid to shop is a glamorous occupation were shattered, but as she talks her eyes sparkle and it is clear that she loves her job.
'When I tell people what I do they think that I just shop all day,' says 23 year old Jennifer. 'True, there is a fair element of 'shopping' involved, but most of my work involves taking to suppliers and manufacturers, managing budgets and negotiating the right price on a product that would be a good seller in store.
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'I have to know what new products are coming out so I go to most of the major homeware trade shows such as the Ambiente Show in Frankfurt and shows in London and the NEC in Birmingham. The days can be long and arduous but nothing comes close to the adrenaline rush you get when you discover something new that you know Jarrold's customers will like.'
Jennifer has recently been named the best buyer for 2010 by the Associated Independent Stores (AIS), a national organisation that supports independent retailers. The accolade only goes to people who have shown a high level of aptitude, a tough feat especially as Jennifer has only being a buyer for Jarrold's since she worked in the department store as part of her placement year with Surrey University (Jennifer joined Jarrold's as a full time retail buyer in July 2009).
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'I was absolutely thrilled to receive the award, especially as I have only been in this role for a short time,' says Jennifer.
'Being a buyer for an independent department store is much more interesting than working for a big chain store as you can follow products as they are brought into the store right through to when they are sold on the shop floor.'
Jennifer not only selects and buys products for Jarrold's, she works with the marketing department to promote the products and the team on the shop floor to make sure the product is displayed to its best advantage and that colour trends and seasonal products are showcased throughout the department.
Says Jennifer: 'Bird prints are a big trend for spring and summer and there are many mugs, cake stands and plates that carry a bird pattern of some description. Bright colours are also a major look as are homewares and gifts inspired by days gone by. Vintage is a very big trend at the moment.'
As she takes me around the homewares and gifts department in the basement at Jarrold's, Jennifer delights in showing me the new Broste Copenhagen collection of ceramic bowls and plates, which she discovered when she went to the show in Frankfurt earlier this year. The trends for the home for spring and summer are already in store and many others are waiting in the stockroom to go out on to the shop floor.
In fact as I go to leave Jennifer notices that a new collection she bought in from pottery manufacturer Denby is ready to go on to the shelves and enthuses about the contemporary design, which will be a showstopper when it is displayed in the shop.