It's not easy being green
By Brent Felgner -- Home Textiles Today, 8/5/2006 12:00:00 AM
New York — —
New York — Many of today's buyers are admittedly still a bit green and perhaps not as product savvy as some of their aging vendors, but it's got to be viewed in context and as a learning curve, said Charles Chinni, executive vp of merchandising for JCPenney. Likewise, he said, some buyers just don't get the respect they deserve for the experience and savvy they possess.
“If you were a buyer 40 years ago, you realize just how much things have changed,” he told HTT. “If you're a buyer today for a few years or less and you're still learning, to you, that's the world you live in. So how do you take advantage of that environment and those that are there to support you, to get your main job done, which is to select the best merchandise?”
The way things used to be done is completely out of younger buyers' frame of reference, he suggested. That places even greater importance on in-service training. But it admittedly places greater demands and pressures on divisional and general merchandise managers, who have taken on greater responsibilities, not only for mentoring their younger colleagues, but for assuming a larger role in product management. Buyer training and education is tougher today, not only because the jobs are more segregated and diverse, but because the great providers have changed or disappeared.
“Years ago there were so many great companies and they had very highly developed recruitment, intern and training programs,” Chinni noted. “Macy's, A&S, Bloomingdale's and Gimbel's, Marshall Field's and Heck's and Foley's — and little by little, [most] have gone away. The training process really deserves a lot of attention; maybe that was the advantage years ago.”
Today, Chinni said, buyer education is often “little more than a pass-or-fail atmosphere.” To fix it, he said, buyers need more training and travel to give them greater exposure to the “hands-on process” of buying and merchandising. Failing to provide that entails the risk that they might become too narrowly focused and lack the depth for some merchandising decisions.
“We have to respect these people and what they do for us,” Chinni said. “If you take it for granted ... that's the beginning of the end.”
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