How I got here - Craig Thornton
Published: 18 Aug 2014 By Carlotta Buosi
What does your diary look like today?
Fairly full. First thing, I am flying to Belfast where I will spend some time with a member of my field team, Karl Keely. Karl is retail visual merchandiser for Ireland and the North West of England. Together, we will be visiting our stores in the city and looking at opportunities within the marketplace, ranging from graphics and merchandising to the visual merchandising strategy of our competitors.
Which task are you most looking forward to today?
Spending time in our stores and seeing how they have developed. It is both interesting and rewarding to visit diff erent stores and see how they have interpreted the visual concept and product handling we have given them. I have a team of six fi eld-based retail visual merchandisers and I enjoy catching up with them. Some of our best ideas come out of these meetings.
Which task do you wish you could postpone?
Covering a national role means you are always on the move and business expenses are naturally incurred. I have to commit to processing my expenses weekly, but I must say the task itself is not the most exciting element of my job. I never had the desire to do a desk job and that’s why the administrative side does not stimulate me.
How did you get to where you are today?
A mixture of strength, determination and passion. I also have a genuine interest in retail functions outside the creative and visual department and this has always led me to ask questions and seek ways to work more effectively. This attitude led to my appointment as retail project manager, which allowed me to gain experience in the design, store development and project delivery side of the business. I love interacting with people, and being aware of the importance of building honest, trusting business relationships has always paid off.
What has been your career highlight?
Working on our international stores. I have been the point of contact between Miss Selfridge and the various franchise models, to ensure brand integrity. This has allowed me to support the training and development of visual managers and franchisees worldwide, including franchise partners Alshaya in Abu Dhabi and Wing Tai in Kuala Lumpur.
If you could change one thing about your career path, what would it be?
I would have pursued my interest in the visual and creative side of retail earlier in my career.
Who is your mentor?
I haven’t had one single mentor, but I’ve developed strong and lasting relationships with senior individuals whom I trust. I have often gone to them for counsel on various issues where their experience could help me most. I work closely with the area management team at Miss Selfridge, including Fiona Smart, our head of retail, and Nicola O’Neill, our area manager for Scotland, North East England and Yorkshire.
What was the best piece of advice they ever gave you?
Nicola O’Neill advised me to be honest, true to myself and regardless of the situation, not to let my core beliefs get overshadowed.
How do you see your career progressing?
International retailing and the visual/creative nuances in the sector have always really interested me. I would love to explore the de_ nition of a brand’s visual identity on a global scale.
What advice would you give to someone wanting to follow in your footsteps?
Build relationships outside your own role, as these will help you to have a greater understanding of the business as a whole. My experience in different roles has given me insight into how different departments can work more closely to benefit our customers.
If you could work in another area of fashion, what would it be?
When I was retail project manager I oversaw the modernisation of our flagship store at Oxford Circus. This was a diverse and challenging project, but it ignited an interest in store development and design, so if I were to work in another area it would be this.
Salaries for this position range from £45,000 to £60,000 (estimate provided by ReThink Recruitment)