#GradStories Mairead Guihen, Buyer, Smyths Toys
What does your job involve?
We start in January selecting toys and after that on a weekly basis we have to see how they're doing. Then you might have to place additional orders – if something is selling really well you will definitely have to get an order on. We also have to keep an eye on the competitors in the market, what they're doing with pricing, what lines they've selected. We have to pick the lines for email campaigns and keep an eye on what you want on the Smyths website. You might have to go and see how things look in store.
What skills are important to be successful?
You have to organise and know what to prioritise and take it upon yourself to make good decisions regarding what you prioritise. Another skill would be communication skills. We deal with people every day in the Far East, Europe, U.K., along with stores in the U.K. and Ireland so we have to keep up to date with them. So you need to be able to be on your emails all the time, ringing them, and we have video conferences so you have to have good communication skills and keep up good relationships with your suppliers especially.
What do you love about your job?
One day you could be visiting stores. The next you could be out with your suppliers. You get to travel quite a lot with Smyths, especially in January when you get to go to some of the biggest toy fairs in the likes of Hong Kong, Germany and the U.K. You get to see parts of the world while working; that's a nice element. One of the other things I really like is product selection. We do a lot of that come February, picking toys for the coming Christmas. If you pick a toy you like in the Far East you get to put your own spin on it, you might pick the colour of it, and it's great then to see it go from start to finish. When you see it on shelves doing well you get a real buzz off it.
What advice would you give a first year student?
The good thing with Smyths Toys is once you come into the business you're allowed to make decisions straight away as long as you have reasons and can stand by them, so it's great in college if you can do as much of that as possible. Toy retail is such a fast paced industry that you have to be well organised, otherwise the deadlines will keep mounting up.
How did you get your job?
I started off doing a Bachelors in Commerce in NUIG and then I went on to do a Masters in marketing. After I finished the Masters I wasn't really sure what area of business I wanted to get into so I thought why not try a grad programme? I looked at the various ones on offer and I just thought Smyths was a good fit. The different areas on offer were buying, marketing, accounts and working in stores. Having come from a retail background I had worked in stores previously so I applied, did three interviews – the first two with our HR in our head office in Galway, the final in Dublin with one of our operations managers – which gave me a good insight into the company. I was successful and was delighted to have gotten the job and I'm here ever since.
How do you achieve a work/life balance?
Being organised is key really. Keeping ahead of deadlines, not letting them mount up on you and just thinking ahead to know what's coming. I know our catalogue is launched in September so I know I have to get the catalogue pricing sorted before then. The earlier I have everything done, the easier it is for me, and then I know I've done a good job because I've done it earlier rather than rushing something. It's key to be as organised as possible and to use your time well. Don't waste your time on silly things and make the most of the time you have available.