James McHugh, Buyer, Smyth's Toys

Hero image for James McHugh, Buyer, Smyth's Toys

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.

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