Career Conversations: Alison – Retail Operations Manager
For our latest ‘Career Conversations’ Insight we spoke to Alison, Retail Operations Manager at White Stuff to understand more about her role, team and White Stuff career journey thus far.
Q: What is your White Stuff Story?
My career at White Stuff began almost 6 years ago as a Shop Manager in East Dulwich. This was a great location to start my White Stuff journey as we had the perfect combination of lovely, regular customers and a great, established team. During my time as a Shop Manager I was given the opportunity to challenge myself to support other Shops including secondments within Cambridge, Battersea and Winchester. This gave my existing team in Dulwich the chance to step up and Ellen, the current Dulwich Shop Manager, progressed into her role from initially joining the business as a Customer Host!
In 2015 I was given the opportunity to move into a maternity cover role in Head Office as Retail Operations Manager. It was a position I had done in my previous employment and I had been keeping my eye on the White Stuff vacancies in the hope that this would become available! This secondment gave me valuable insight into the business and when I returned to East Dulwich I had a far deeper understanding of trading decisions, operational timelines and best practice which I was able to share with my team.
In 2017 the Retail Operations Manager position became vacant once again and I was delighted to move permanently into this role at Casa Del White Stuff in Oval, London.
Q: Tell us more about the Retail Operations and VM function at White Stuff
The Retail Operations team is the main link between HQ and Shops. You could call us the ‘gatekeepers of the comms’! Any communication to Shops generally comes through the Operations team where we ensure it is Shop-friendly and that the timing is appropriate depending on what activities and promotions are due to occur. We work closely with many other departments across the business but especially with the Marketing and Visual Merchandising teams on planning and Shop support guidelines. The Retail Operations team also work on any other retail related projects such as GDPR, this is where my experience from a Shop and Head Office perspective can add lots of value.
My role of Retail Operations Manager is to have an awareness of anything that will ultimately impact upon our Shops and plan this into the retail communication strategy. It is a key position and touches most areas of the business. Good relationships and communication is essential in order to keep the Shops well informed and supported.
Q: What are some of the key focuses or projects that the team are working on currently?
Currently the Retail Operations team are working on several exciting projects. We are expanding and improving ways that our customer can order from us with our ‘More Ways to Shop’ project. We are also planning the annual Brand Conference for our Shop Managers where they will get a preview of Christmas at White Stuff; including the windows schemes, marketing activity and the beautiful Christmas product for our customers. If that wasn’t enough to keep us busy we are also starting to plan for our peak trading period and supporting with the set up of our next Shop openings. We are true multi-taskers!
Q: What advice would you give someone looking to start a career within Retail Operations?
The advice I would give to someone wishing to move into Retail Operations would be to have a passion for communication, know your audience and develop an eye for detail. Be extremely organised, great at planning and be prepared for every day to bring something different!
Q: What is your fondest memory from your time at White Stuff thus far?
I have so many good memories from my time at White Stuff and having worked with so many great teams of people it’s difficult to choose, however there are a few that instantly spring to mind! The first was cycling in the window of the East Dulwich Shop dressed as a Yorkshire Terrier (!) to raise money for our local charity partner.
Secondly, the five months I spent in the Cambridge shop, cycling to work each day ‘like a local’ with my basket on the front taking in the beautiful views! Lastly, our head office Halloween party where the Retail Operations and VM team won the best fancy dress competition with our ‘Day of the Dead’ costumes! Good times.
To explore opportunities across White Stuff take a look at our current vacancies.