29 May 2024, 03:05
By Furniture News Jul 20, 2016

Jayne Zalega, Gallery Direct

Jayne Zalega is the business development director for the home textiles division of Gallery Direct. Fast becoming a one-stop-shop for furniture and furnishings, the Sittingbourne, Kent-based Gallery Direct officially launched a broad textiles collection at Autumn Fair International 2014. As well as committing to a £1.5m investment in a range of cushions, throws and bedlinen, the company appointed experienced textiles expert Jayne to lead its new division.

How did you enter the trade?
Whilst in my final year at Huddersfield University studying BSC Textile Design, I approached a number of childrenswear retailers for information for my dissertation, and Adams Childrenswear invited me down to Nuneaton to meet one of the buyers. It was on this visit that I decided I wanted to be a buyer. It sounded fascinating and challenging, and I always remember being told by the buyer no two days were ever the same. It is true – retail is definitely not boring!

I applied for a job there and went through various assessment centres, and finally was accepted on the Sears Professional Management system for two years, which was a great start to my training and I still refer back to it now. I joined the girlswear buying department as a trainee buyer and had some great experiences and exposure to Far East, European and UK sourcing.

Who was your inspiration?
My parents, particularly my father, who has worked hard all his life. Coming from a working-class background in Yorkshire and seeing my father struggle with his own businesses as I grew up gave me the inspiration and sheer determination to gain my qualifications and push myself to be as successful as I could be. My mother always encouraged my education, and my father always drilled into me to never give up, have confidence and always aim high.

What was your career high point?
My time at Rosebys was varied and the company had many changes and rapid growth, evolving throughout my career. I really enjoyed the challenges and being involved in the management buyout at Rosebys with PWC, and although this was, unfortunately, not successful, the exposure to this was invaluable and had a positive impact on my career and my management knowledge, strategic thinking and style.

… and low point?
Redundancy at the beginning of the recession – it really knocks your confidence and you start questioning your ability. You have to stay positive and not take it personally – it’s business!

… and the turning point?
Jumping over to the other side of the fence from retail to wholesale. Understanding the retail buying function and strategic thinking has been invaluable in putting our own Gallery collections together – thinking about colour balance, price architecture, branding styles and packaging for its end use and ease of display.

Describe a typical working day
Each day is varied to some extent, but is always about looking ahead – at the moment I’m looking at products for Christmas 2015, liaising with factories and negotiating prices, fabric qualities and make-up styles, along with discussing shots with the photographer for our catalogues for spring/summer 2015. I’m also spending time seeing customers to develop exclusive collections.

If you had to start over, you’d probably pursue which career?
I would always opt for buying. I love my job. I love the challenges and the variety buying offers. It’s creative, pressured, hard work and varied, but it’s very rewarding. I really enjoy what I do.

What date on the business calendar do you most look forward to?
Trade show dates – our chance to showcase all our new products and get customer reactions.

What is the most important issue affecting your business right now? 
It was the year end – pushing the sales as much as possible for our final year results.

What company do you most look up to?
John Lewis, for its design, quality, lovely shopping experience and great customer service.

What would you most like to change about yourself?
I’d like to have more patience.

What do you enjoy most about working in the trade?
I love the fact I can use my creative skills as well as business acumen, strategic thinking and trading skills together. It is a very fulfilling career.

Also, there is nothing more rewarding than seeing the products you have designed, developed, sourced and distributed out on display in retailers’ stores, and seeing customers actually buying them.

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