Careers in Fashion: Interview with former Head of Merchandising for TOPSHOP

Have you ever wondered who decides how many leopard print blouses TOPSHOP buys? I spoke to former head of merchandising for TOPSHOP, Clare Burgess to find out.

Careers in Fashion: Interview with former Head of Merchandising for TOPSHOP

What is merchandising and why does it matter?

Merchandising is all about presenting products at the right time, at the right place, in the right quantity and at the right price to maximise sales.

Have you ever wondered who decides:

  • How many leopard print blouses TOPSHOP buys?
  • How many bumbags River buy?
  • How many chocolate Santa Twix's Urban buy?
  • It's the Merchandiser.

Since merchandising is all about selling, the ultimate benefit of effective merchandising is higher sales and better profit for the company and an easy and positive buying experience for the customer.  Everyone wins.

How did you get in to Merchandising and how did your career progress?

  • My first job was as a Merchandising Admin Assistant, often just called an Allocator, in Debenhams working, in baby wear.
  • I then moved the BHS, which sadly no longer exists, as an Assistant Merchandiser.  I spent 3 years on tailoring and in the Jeans department.    
  • I went back to Debenhams as a merchandiser for jewellery and watches  with over 6,500 different pieces.  After a year I moved to handbags and went on buying trips to India and Italy, which was great fun.
  • Next job was Senior Merchandiser for Dorothy Perkins.
  • Then the best job of all - Head of Merchandising for Top Shop which involved an annual budget of £300 million.  During this time I worked on the Kate Moss collection; launched make-up and shoe departments; travelled all over the world looking at our international stores including Moscow and New York.  Worked with Christopher Kane who TopShop sponsored as a student and went to London Fashion Week.

What do you need to get a career in Merchandising?

  • Love of numbers  
  • Trend spotting
  • Love of fashion
  • Inquisitive
  • Strategic thinking
  • Communication skills
  • Strong Excel Skills  (you work with spreadsheet every day)
  • Do your research.....

What courses are available?

There are a number of courses run by the Fashion Retail Academy

Or you can study for a degree at Westminster or Manchester:

But I didn't do any of this. I left school at 18, worked my way up learning on the job and it's worked for me.

Header Image Credit: CargoCollective


Evie Wildish

Evie Wildish

I've completed my Bronze and Silver Awards and am now working towards my Gold. I enjoy art, writing, fashion and would like to become a designer in the future.

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  • Luke Taylor

    On 13 August 2018, 11:19 Luke Taylor Contributor commented:

    That's sounds awesome! I can't believe you got to talk to the head of Topshop! What was that like for you?

  • The Summer Fashion School London

    On 13 August 2018, 11:26 The Summer Fashion School London commented:

    Evie - I'm so pleased you enjoyed Clare's impressive talk. Your interview questions are extremely pertinent and Clare's enlightening response demonstrates this, highlighting key information for a career in fashion merchandising. I have thoroughly enjoyed reading your interview and well done. I hope you enjoyed collating your excellent reportage!

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