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Neal Cobb, Senior Buyer at House of Fraser, gives us a glimpse into his working day at the British department store

Day in the life of: Neal Cobb, House of Fraser Buyer. The Lecture RoomConsidering a career in fashion? Our Q&A with Neal Cobb, Senior Mens Formalwear Buyer, will help provide some insight into the working environment at one of the UK’s best know department stores. Neal has 12 years experience as a Buyer, and is responsible for the delivery of 4 ranges at House of Fraser.

How did you get into this role?
After I finished my Fashion Degree I worked as a Fashion Stylist which was great fun – however there wasn’t a steady income. I then got a job on the Womenswear sales floor at a department store, which is where I met the Fashion Buyers.

I did some work experience in my holidays and helped them out at a busy time, so they offered me a job as the Buying Assistant for Men’s Formalwear and Designerwear. After a couple of years I moved on to a renowned retail group to get my “army training”. I’ve now been a Buyer for twelve years – which has gone very fast!

Describe your average day

Every day is different, which makes my role very exciting. The weeks are incredibly busy without much time to stop, so you have to think fast and react quickly. When dealing with four large ranges with high selling prices and high quality expectations – the pressure is certainly on.

When I am not travelling and in the office, I have trade meetings on a Monday – which means going through the numbers and putting a plan of action together. This is where the team gets very close, as we all have to know what’s going on and what to do, and the impact on the business.

Tuesdays or Wednesdays we have fit sessions – which means fitting samples sent in from our suppliers on our fit models and checking the fit, construction and make etc. I try to see most of our largest suppliers every fortnight to touch base, and keep an eye on deliveries and order progress.

I work very closely with the Formalwear Designer, our Technologist and Merchandising team – as well as my own (dedicated and hard working) team which takes up most of my time; lots of people to coordinate and lots of detail – it’s great!

Biggest challenges in this role:
The economy is ever challenging, so you have to think on your feet and be innovative with products and constantly reassess how you approach situations, to always be one step ahead.

It’s all about managing people’s expectations and delivering results.

Advice for a student or graduate wanting to go into a role like this

Get as much on-the-job work experience as possible, and do not limit yourself to a certain product type or level of product. Jobs are hard to find and employers like candidates that are not fussy about what type of products they work with, as the job role is basically the same at entry level.

It’s all about exposure to the environment and a keenness to learn and work hard. If a candidate has a friendly nature and is easy to communicate with, they will go far in this industry.

Two personal traits you need for this job:
Stamina and patience

Best experience:
Creating a new formalwear brand called Corsivo – due to launch in January 2014

Worst experience:
Being served very strange unidentifiable food in China, and being a polite person – eating it!

Any perks?

  • Travel
  • Staff discount
  • Fun work social life and working with great people

Why do you like working for House of Fraser?

House of Fraser is very modern in its approach to brands we stock, the product development and buying

processes. I like the fast pace, the quick decision making, and of course the support I get from my team and the Directors.

It’s not always easy (which would be boring) but is incredibly rewarding and good fun. I love our products and the culture and wouldn’t want to work anywhere else.