July 2, 2007
Sidira Sisich, Macy's Buyer for Juniors
Sidira Sisich hadn't planned to work as a retail buyer. But a job managing a small boutique during college sold her on the idea. So in 2001, after graduation from Washington State University, she began to work for Macy's , first as a buyer for infant wear, then for young girls, finally working her way up to juniors, where she's been since 2005. At the company's Northwest offices in downtown Seattle, and with the help of an associate buyer, assistant buyer and retail planner, she buys, stocks, promotes, sells and tracks merchandise for 7- to 16-year-old girls in Macy's six-state Northwest territory.
Q: How did you get started in this field?
A: I didn't plan on going into retail as a buyer. I spent a year in France, and when I got back from France I was a senior in college. And like most college students, I needed a job. I got a job at a small specialty store as what I thought was going to be a sales associate. The owner had run the store for 20 years and wanted to take off three months to travel. So I ended up running the store, really assuming the role of manager/buyer. I found that I really enjoyed it. I worked there a little over a year.
Q: How did you make the transition to Macy's?
A: Macy's [at the time, the Bon Marché] came to my college to recruit for jobs. I talked to the recruiters on campus and interviewed with Macy's, Gap and one other store. I think the fact that I had a business background and some retail experience certainly helped me.
I did an executive training program [when I started] here. You come in and get trained to be an assistant buyer, or you go work in the stores to get retail management experience. It's a three- to four-month program but you get placed [in a job] after it. You spend a couple months learning how Macy's works, and then you shadow – you get placed in an office. If you go to be an assistant buyer, you get assigned to a buying team. You work closely with the buyer and the assistant buyer to learn what the job is about.
"It's not about shopping. I manage a business. And we are here to make money. I don't always buy things that I like. When I first started [as a buyer], there was this hideous, furry, animal-printed sweater for little girls. And of course it was a best-seller. And so I had to order it the next time around. In fact, I had to keep reordering and reordering it. It's a really good lesson in that you can't reflect your personal taste on everything you buy."
Q: What's a typical day like for you?
A: It's a really fast-paced, high-energy job. We're always recalibrating the business and strategizing. And the priorities of the day shift constantly. As a buyer, I'm in charge of driving sales and profitability for my area. And then on the product side, I'm in charge of picking the product. From the second that merchandise hits the floor 'til when it's not on the floor any longer, I'm in charge of it.
I spend a lot of time planning – that is, building financial plans for the product that I will buy. In some cases, I buy product that will deliver in nine months or even a year away. Right now we are finalizing fall 2007 plans and working on preliminary spring 2008 plans. Once the plans are in place, the balance of my time is spent reacting to business to try and stay on plan.
Q: How much time do you actually spend buying clothes?
A: I spend maybe 40 percent of my time buying. I go to the vendors and they all have showrooms. I go to New York eight times a year, L.A. twice a year and Las Vegas twice a year [to see samples]. I travel fairly frequently because I am in a trend area, so the product is always evolving and we try to stay on top of the latest trends.
Once you buy the product, there's all that follow up. We do a lot of order tracking, making sure the product gets here on time. Then once it's in the store, we have to create signs for the merchandise. And then once it's on the floor we have to manage it, we have to track how quickly we sell the product.
Q: What advice can you give someone who aspires to be a buyer?
A: Get involved in retail one way or another, whether it's with Macy's or in the mall at Gap. I also would strongly suggest contacting somebody in [Macy's] corporate HR or talking to another buyer or going to the Macy's Retailogy site [which has hiring information for college students]. If you're in college, ask your college career center if Macy's will be on campus to recruit for jobs.
Knowledge of business is helpful because that's what we're doing. But it's certainly not a requirement. I have a degree in French and international business. There are a lot of buyers who have a fashion merchandising degree and that's equally helpful. There are also a lot of people here who don't have a four-year degree who are very successful. A lot of them work their way up through the stores. Retail is a learned business. You don't have to go to school to be a retailer.
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