Ragtrader Fashion Industry Award winner and Kmart womenswear seasonal buyer Jamie Chugg discusses what it's like to be a buyer at Kmart.
How did you get your start in the industry?
I started my career overseas in Canada during my gap year, working in accounts for a fashion brand.
As I worked day in and out alongside the buyers, I instantly knew I was in the wrong role and when returning to Australia landed my first job as a buying assistant with Kmart, and the rest is history.
What were the biggest challenges in the early days of your career?
Networking can be a real challenge in the early days of your career and can feel really overwhelming particularly when you are wanting to connect with those on a more senior level.
Over the years however I have found that generally people really enjoy engaging with, mentoring and upskilling the future generations.
Networking is such a valuable tool in helping you learn from someone who has been in the industry longer than you and elevate your own personal brand so I would encourage anyone in the early stages of their career to reach out and ask for a simple coffee catch up with someone they admire.
What does your day-to-day look like?
Every day and every week is different depending where we are at in the sourcing cycle.
Generally my day to day will consist of a morning check in with the team, ranging sessions with design, fit meetings with our sourcing teams in Asia, reviewing trade or strategising next season with my planner and squeezing an hour here and there to work through a very full inbox.
What are the challenges in your role and how do you overcome them?
COVID-19 has certainly proved challenging, particularly for those in hands-on product roles, however has really taught us how to be agile and flexible.
Whilst the initial thought of working from home to create product felt impossible, the teams have really found their feet and has led to the introduction of some great new processes like virtual fits and digital approval systems which have since become business as usual due to their effectiveness and efficiency.
Trial and error of new processes has been effective for us in unlocking better ways of working.
What project stands out as a highlight in your career?
The challenge of introducing more sustainable fabrics in line with Kmart’s Better Together sustainability program commitments has been a wonderful feel good project to work on.
From the early days of understanding what makes a more sustainable product, to sourcing materials, finding vendor bases to support us and developing amazing quality products that we can offer at our everyday low price has been so rewarding.
Seeing our customers love, style and wearing our responsibly sourced products, knowing we are making a difference is a real highlight in my career.
Albeit not a small project, being a part of Kmart’s turnaround from an underperforming business to the successful strong brand it is with a sustainable lowest-price position, underpinned by a lowest-cost operating model, incredible scale and unique product development capabilities.
I will always be proud and so grateful to have been a part of the turnaround journey from the beginning.