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Zalando wants candidates with an analytical mind and a strong sense of fashion

By FashionUnited


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FashionUnited publishes a series of interviews dedicated to the most requested professionals in the fashion industry, both by the brands and by companies active in fashion and luxury e-commerce. We decided to hear from fashion and e-commerce companies to understand the most popular roles, how much can be gained by those in these positions, what are the best training paths and attitudes required to find a job and make a career in fashion and luxury. This week we interviewed Astrid Arndt, vice president of business engagement and recruitment for Zalando, e-tailer with headquarters in Berlin, which closed the first quarter with revenues up 15.2 percent to 1.4 billion euros.

What are the most sought after profiles now and what will be the most popular in the coming months?

Zalando wants to become the starting point for fashion, providing over 26 million customers in Europe with the most relevant assortment in fashion and beauty. We offer over 400,000 items from almost 2,000 brands. To make sure we have the latest trends and brands that our customers are looking for, merchandisers and buyers are always in demand at Zalando. Because we base all our business decisions on data, in addition to a strong sense of fashion, these roles also require an analytical mindset. Being able to extract data allows both merchandisers and buyers to better understand customer requirements and make the right decisions in their daily work. In the recruitment process, we also focus on trend forecasting and brand strategy skills.

What do these professions do? How much can they aspire to earn?

Buyers and merchandisers work closely together and their job is to ensure that our customers have access to the right choice of products, which means providing them with the right trends and clothes at the right time and at the right price. Buyers are responsible for planning and selecting the items to sell in our fashion store. This role requires the ability to make decisions based on the synthesis of several factors such as customer demand, quality or brand policy. Possessing an exceptional sensitivity to market trends, keeping up and responding to market changes as well as understanding the needs and behaviors of consumers to provide them with a commercially sustainable choice are other necessary requirements for this role. Merchandisers are involved from planning to delivery of collections by brands, ensuring timely deliveries. They also play a key role in forecasting, stock planning and performance monitoring.

Salaries and the activities performed by these roles are highly dependent on the level of experience. Specifically, Zalando's remuneration model follows internal remuneration bands established according to work families to ensure fair compensation for similar professional profiles and is complemented by variable factors at management level such as stock options. Professional growth is also extremely encouraged in all roles at Zalando. We offer great flexibility and development opportunities through internal training and mentoring activities and staff rotation in different tasks, to name but a few.

What kind of training and skills are needed?

For these roles we are looking for graduates, a course of study in fashion management or retail management is considered advantageous but not mandatory. Much more important is the practical experience in these roles to develop the necessary skills. The skills required depend on the level of seniority, but generally good stakeholder management, clear communication, a solution-oriented approach and analytical thinking are highly valued for these positions.

Do you find it difficult to find the right professionals for your research?

Sometimes it can be difficult to identify niche profiles; for example, buyers who have experience in a very specific category such as denim menswear with off-price experience. This profile should have experience not only in men's denim but also in an off-price business model, such as Zalando Privé.

What are the right characteristics and aptitudes to work in an environment like yours?

The right candidates should identify with the values that characterize Zalando's corporate culture: deep customer orientation, entrepreneurial mentality, speed and team spirit. These values allow us to offer our customers the best possible shopping experience and to offer our partners the best possible environment. It is also very important to be versatile and open to new experiences. We aim to find the right candidates who are able to see things in perspective and always report their actions to our business strategy.

The original version of this interview was published on May 9th, 2019 on FashionUnited Italy. The text has been translated and slightly abbreviated for an international audience.

Photos: Zalando headquarters in Berlin, credit Svenja Krüger, from the Zalando press office