From biscuits to big business – in just a year and a half
Asda’s Trading Graduate Scheme gave me the ideal platform to start my Buying Career. My first role was as a Trading Assistant within the Biscuit’s category, where I was quickly immersed in a comprehensive training programme that gave me the knowledge and skills to be successful. From the day I started, I was working with some the biggest brands in the world. I was also working closely with the Biscuit buyer, helping put Asda’s trading strategy into place and getting the best value for our customers. However, it wasn’t long until I started taking on projects that were designed to prepare me for my first Buying role. I was presenting Competitor Analysis Studies, managing seasonal ranges and taking ownership for buying a particular category within Biscuits. It all required me to work with different functions throughout Asda, such as Merchandising, Supply Chain, Customer Planning and Marketing. And I was even directly negotiating with suppliers.
Within 10 months of joining the Graduate Scheme, I was promoted into my first Buying role. I began taking on responsibility for an area within the Grocery Trading Team that delivered over £100m in sales every year for Asda. For me, this really showed the benefit of a career within retail. You just wouldn’t get that chance in another industry. After only a year of joining Asda, I had been trusted to effectively run a £100m+ turnover area of the business. .
Due to Asda’s scale and reach in the UK, graduates are quickly given huge levels of responsibility. They also trust you to make key decisions that will actually affect the business. This included looking after negotiations with suppliers, promotional planning, new product development, range management, supplier visits and overseas buying trips. Not only that, I was also managing the profitability of the category, as well as the setting the over-arching trading strategy.
After only 8 months in that role, I was promoted to Buying Manager because of the strong results I delivered within my category. While it was still in Core Grocery, I was now responsible for a category that was delivering over £300m in sales, and managing a small team to help achieve these results. And I now hold ultimate accountability for the sales performance and the profitability of my category, leading individual supplier negotiations that are worth over £10m.
Product is at the heart of everything Asda does. So as a Trader, you’re right in the thick of the action, engaging with virtually every department in the business as you look to execute your strategy. You really need exceptional communication skills and the ability to influence stakeholders at all levels, inside and outside of the business. In my view, a Buying career represents the ideal blend of art and science. It’s important you have strong commercial awareness, an eye for detail and an affinity for numbers because you’ll be driving the sales and managing the profitability of your category.
The Trading Graduate Scheme has undoubtedly allowed me to fast track my Buying career. All of my hard work has been recognised, with two promotions in 18 months. And with responsibility over a key strategic category for Asda, I’m effectively running a £300m+ business unit. I don’t know any other industry where I would’ve been trusted to have this level of responsibility at such an early stage in my career. Asda really have created an environment where development and progression are actively encouraged. On top of all that, I’ve also been lucky enough to work with – and be mentored by – some of the leading figures within U.K. retail.
For me, a career within buying represents the ideal blend of skills and capabilities more than any other area. It requires creativity, flair, originality and relationship building, but you have to pair this with commerciality, intelligence, and a strong financial understanding.