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James McHugh, Buyer, Smyth's Toys

You can't help but develop an interest in the industry when you see the scope of what’s involved

Degree subject Commerce Degree, NUI Galway (2013); Masters in Startegy, Innovation and People Management, NUI Galway (2015)
Job title Buyer
Employer Smyth’s Toys

How did you become interested in a career in the retail sector?

I was first introduced to what it’s like working in retail when I worked as a sales assistant during my studies in NUIG. At the time, like most students juggling work and college, I didn’t see it as a career path but more as a temporary way to support myself when in college. However anyone who’s ever worked in retail will agree that while working on the shop floor is difficult, it can be very rewarding and you can’t help but develop an interest in the industry when you see the scope of what’s involved.

How did you degree contribute to you working with Smyths?

The accounting side of my commerce degree gave me experience in working with numbers in a business environment, while other aspects of the degree such as the economics and the marketing side of it gave me a well rounded view on how business works. my masters contributed significantly to me working in Smyths. The strategy aspect is utilised on a day to day basis in Smyths as I work with personnel at every level of the business. Innovation is a major factor in my role in Smyths, in particular as it’s important to constantly stay ahead of the competition and tailor yourself to your customers ever changing needs. my degree not only helped me with my communication skills, but it also taught me a lot about different cultures and the way people and businesses work in different parts of the world.

What does your daily role involve, and what’s been one of the biggest challenges so far?

Working in the buying department, my main role is to ensure stores have stock of products that the customers want. I would spend a lot of each day placing orders with suppliers from around the world, but of course it’s more detailed then it sounds. You can’t just order blindly so a lot of time goes in to choosing and developing each product and its quantities, and once this is done there is also the logistical side of getting the product to stores on time. One of the biggest challenges I’ve found is the level of organisation required. You have to juggle a lot of tasks and thoughts at once and it has taught me the necessity to be organised in your work.

What’s exciting about your job?

find the fast pace and sense of achievement from the job both rewarding and exciting. There’s a lot of responsibility, so when things go well it brings a great sense of pride and achievement with it. There’s also so many possibilities for the future; to travel, meet people and learn new things, I am really enjoying my work and the potential which it has.

What advice would you have for students and graduates?

The best advice I could give would be to keep your options open and look at every career path, including the less obvious ones. If a role in buying interests you, then I believe a great start to this career is a background in working in retail at store level. From there you learn how stores work and you also open up opportunities to move into buying there or in other stores. my career is only really starting, but it has managed to develop quickly so far, so I’m looking forward to seeing what the next few years hold. I’d like to develop towards a more senior role in buying, with hopefully the opportunity to travel and work closely with suppliers.