From staying updated with trends, drawing on experience and understanding the importance of data, Burlington Stores Vice President of Merchandise Planning Jonathan Savoy answers “20 Questions” to help you prepare for your retail career.
Here are a few of questions submitted by students nationwide – along with Savoy’s answers.
What accomplishments are you most proud of?
My experience and success in many different types of retail sectors, and companies at various stages of growth. I’m able to not be surprised at what’s going on because I can dial into some experience.
From a startup perspective, while at Victoria’s Secret, I was on the initial rollout team that developed and served up the business case for PINK. That was amazing – new business, new customers, exciting, trendy.
And I’ve had experience in mature businesses, like apparel at TJX, where we’ve seen major shifts. You have to be innovative and understand where the customer is going and shift so you can capture new opportunities.
How did you – and how do you currently – navigate merchandise planning with the pandemic?
It’s been a rollercoaster ride. Stores closed in a short period of time and we had to stop the supply chain. Everything came to a screeching halt. There was a constriction phase and an uncertainty phase.
We don’t rely on one business category to drive our business. We have the luxury of understanding what’s going on and pulling certain levers that keeps us moving forward. If we were a company that only had a certain business, we’d be in more trouble. But we were able to come out very fast and have some success in third quarter based on our ability to move and groove and be flexible.
What makes off-price exciting?
The model is dedicated to delivering customer value. We’re not thinking about just product, just brands or just quality or price points. We’re thinking about it all together to ensure that’s generating a “wow” emotional reaction for that customer to want to buy now.
The customer is the ultimate winner. If you think about years ago, it used to be cool for customers to say, “I spent a lot of money.” Those days are long over. Now it’s cool and fashionable to say, “Do you know how much I saved here?”
What trends should people entering the industry be aware of?
Everything is moving away from gut and moving towards data.
Become proficient in Excel and understand how you can gather information and organize it efficiently. Spend time understanding what the root causes of results are, and then what action plans you want to put in place to maximize results based on what you know.
What advice do you have for students that you wish you would have known?
Retail math is critical. It’s the puzzle. It’s putting together the math equation for the observation and the analysis. What does it mean? How do you get there?
In all your classes in which there’s analysis and case studies, practice diving into them in a big way. That’s going to help you when you’re interviewing, and it’s going to help you day one on the job when your job is to analyze the business.
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