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Sneaker Peek - Meet Zalando’s Sneakers Team

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At Zalando, our greatest asset is the people working on creating unforgettable experiences for our customers. Today, we introduce members of our Sneakers Team: Senior Merchandiser, Carlo Cingolani and Senior Buyer, Kwame Manu-Bio. Together with their team, they are responsible for the attractiveness and profitability of the Men’s and Unisex Sneakers selection at Zalando.

How did you start your professional journey?

Kwame: I had the desire to become a Buyer 10 years ago when I was still working in marketing. My path began at a small brand in Berlin where I worked for 2 years before joining Zalando as a Merchandiser. After 3 years of working in this role, I got the chance to become a Buyer and progressed from there to my current role as a Senior Buyer.

Carlo: I started as an Assistant Buyer in a footwear brick-and-mortar retailer where I became interested in a more financial-based approach, so I joined a Merch Traineeship. After that, I moved to the role of the Women’s department Merchandiser and had to deal with the whole supply chain - from design to buying, to production and eventually sales. The experience I gained there was very valuable for my first e-commerce job here at Zalando!

And how has your career progressed at Zalando?

Kwame: For me, the biggest progress since I moved to Zalando has been the position change from a Merchandiser to a Buyer. I was provided with several opportunities that helped me to develop the necessary skills in order to become a Buyer. For example, I got to perfect the art of negotiating by shadowing an experienced Buyer to advance in this role.

Carlo: Zalando is very unique in its internal flexibility, and the network you can build here is very extensive. I joined 4 years ago as a Merchandiser for the Kids private labels, then helped out other departments and moved to Category Men. I started out looking after Denim and eventually landed where I am now - in the Sneakers team. To this day, I have never thought “bummer, I have to go to work” because the atmosphere here is so full of energy!

Has your educational background been helpful for your daily work?

Carlo: I studied Economics and Business Management. It definitely helped to sharpen my analytical skills, business acumen and strategic thinking. However, I wouldn’t say that it’s necessary for one’s job to be directly linked to their education, as I believe that key soft skills can be mastered even better during Humanitarian or Psychological studies.

Kwame: I studied International Management and Foreign Trade for a few semesters, but then decided to do an apprenticeship. At the time, I never imagined that one day I would be working as a Buyer, but I still think that my educational background has helped me to develop an analytical and entrepreneurial mindset that is very useful at Zalando.

Kwame Manu-Bio - Senior Buyer at Zalando’s Sneakers Team

What are your main responsibilities at your role?

Kwame: We are leading, extending and optimizing Zalando’s men and unisex sneaker assortment. My tasks involve top-line planning and budget management in close collaboration with my great planner Carlo, as well as joint-trading and planning with strategic vendors. In addition, I take care of negotiating the assortment access and allocation with brands and suppliers, as well as alignment on upcoming campaigns with internal and external marketing departments. I also lead a buying unit of three assistants, so my daily goal is to help them develop in their professional careers.

Carlo: My responsibility is to ensure the financial sustainability of our collection from planning what we should buy, to trading the collection once it “hits the shelves”. Therefore, my main scope is growth and profitability of our business unit. My ultimate goal is having the right product at the right time, with the right price and units. I also lead a team of three assistants, so my day usually spans from analyses and decisions on reorders and discounts, coaching the team and meeting our brands with my buyer to build the next collection.

How important is the collaboration between Buyers and Merchandisers at Zalando?

Carlo: A balanced and clear collaboration is crucial - and it makes our job much smoother! Since we are equally responsible for the success of our unit, we have the approach of “ours” instead of “mine”.

Kwame: I agree, the collaboration between the Merchandiser and Buyer is very important as we work towards reaching the same targets. Therefore, both views are very beneficial when it comes to planning and buying, and even more so when analysing the past performance and foreseeing the trends.

Which skills do you find most useful for your day-to-day job?

Carlo: Analytical skills are imperative for our job role since spotting patterns in customer data helps us make better decisions. On top of that, negotiation and stakeholder management are key soft skills for me, since we have many important departments we need to align with on a daily basis.

Kwame: I agree with Carlo, stakeholder management ability is a crucial part of our work. For Buyers, I would say the most essential skill to have is an outstanding fashion sense to anticipate trends. In addition, time management to be on top of your deadlines, negotiation skills to get the right brands with the right conditions, access and allocation, as well as an entrepreneurial mindset.

Carlo Cingolani - Senior Merchandiser at Zalando’s Sneakers Team

How does data and technology fit into your role at Zalando?

Carlo: As an Italian, I would say ‘’Data is our daily bread’’. We really have to understand each KPI in the business in order to present an attractive and dedicated product offering to our customers. Also, tech is no longer just a ‘’good-to-have’’, but rather a ‘’must’’ for us. For example, it allows us to explore possibilities to personalize our collection based on different customer types at Zalando.

Kwame: Same for me - both are an integral part of my daily work as a Buyer. Data mining helps me to understand our customer’s shopping preference and make the right decisions. And tech allows us to take it to the next level and create value-adding excitement for our customers. For example, in the form of a Release Countdown for a new product drop.

How much freedom do you get in your daily work?

Carlo: We have a full ownership of the business unit in our day-to-day responsibilities. Nevertheless, many decisions naturally have to be taken at a higher management level, for example contractual negotiations, as we are dealing with some of the most influential brands on the market.

Kwame: Exactly! We are fully autonomous when it comes to spending the allocated budget, but we do review our plans and buy in alignment with our leads.

What makes your role at the Sneakers team different from your previous work?

Kwame: The lifecycle of sneaker trends is becoming increasingly harder to forecast. Our key to success is to place the right bets, fight for a higher allocation on performing products, as well as challenge our brands to provide enhanced access and a strong execution within their assortment. But the demanding nature of this work is what makes it really exciting!

Carlo: Kwame is completely right! This business unit requires a high level of detail and accuracy, since we are working with the biggest lifestyle brands on the market. And nowadays, the best-selling sneakers are changing faster than ever, so extensive trend forecasting is vital to be able to deliver great results.

If you are interested in developing your career and working on solving exciting challenges just like Carlo and Kwame, then explore job opportunities in Fashion at Zalando: https://zln.do/2GIfLHg

If you would like to be part of Zalando’s Fashion Talent Community to get regular updates about company culture, fashion events and new job openings, then join here: https://bit.ly/2IPEayf

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