This is one of retail’s cast iron rules: when applying for a job in fashion or retail you must make at least one store visit. In terms of your overall picture of the company, the more stores you visit; the better. It is also important to investigate the competition. The ‘comp shop’ exercise will enable you to draw comparisons between retailers and get a feel for the sector.
When you visit a store, stop thinking like a customer. This is not shopping, this is analysis.
Your interviewer will be gratified that you liked the ranges but this will not illustrate your suitability for the job. Things to make note of when you make your comp shop visit will include:
- First impressions when you walked into the store – its atmosphere, how tidy was it, were the shelves well stocked, did it feel cramped?
- How would you describe the layout – how was the merchandise displayed, how was space used, were related products merchandised together in order to maximise sales?
- Point of sale analysis?
- Who is the target customer?
- Merchandise quality?
- Remember that you are breaking down the store experience.
Keep the information relevant to the position you are applying for; merchandise quality will be important for applicants for buyers or garment technologist positions whereas candidates applying for merchandising roles will need to pay attention to space planning, promotions and sizing.
Undertake the same process with competitors but make sure you compare like for like.
An interviewer is not looking for a trading analysis of past successes and failures. What they want is a concise and honest set of opinions but make sure you deliver your analysis with enthusiasm. Try not to be negative. If your argument is clear and you can back it up with examples you can still demonstrate a critical eye without being overly negative.