By NASA MARIA ENTABAN
SHOPPING and trend-watching may sound like a dream career to many fashion lovers, and fashion buyers Olivia Ong Su-Kheng, 25 and Jessie Sin Mei-ye, 26 will tell you that it is every bit as exciting as it sounds.
Ong, 25, and Sin, 26, are two out of the 30 fashion buyers that handle 600 brands under the Zalora Malaysia umbrella.
Popular online fashion shopping mall Zalora has everything you can find in a mall – all thanks to buyers like Ong and Sin.
Sin, who handles private labels, is responsible for sourcing out brands that she can develop and supply to customers in Malaysia.
“I source for brands and stores that are really interesting in other countries in Asia, and once I get to know the brand and its direction, we can then tailor it to current trends and local customer’s needs,” says Sin.
“I think the most interesting part of being a buyer is that you get to shop while you work,” she adds.
Ong, a fashion marketing and management graduate, handles 30 brands and spends her days mostly dealing with suppliers of these products.
“One of the main aspects of the job is regularly meeting suppliers, negotiating terms of contract, maintaining relationships with existing suppliers and sourcing for new products,” explains Ong.
“I have to liase with the suppliers to ensure that the products and the collection supply meets the demand, and if something goes out of stock we have to call the suppliers and get them to replenish. We keep track of what’s most sellable for each brand and get suppliers to bring in more,” she adds.
On top of negotiating and sourcing, Ong and Sin also have to keep track of their products and to make sure they are on top of everything, including trends.
“When I travel, I see what’s in trend and what they’re producing and draw inspiration from there. Thailand, Japan and China are the main countries that set trends in this region,” explains Sin.
Many brands are still reluctant to break away from traditional shopping, and a big part of Sin and Ong’s jobs is persuading brands with an ‘old-school’ shopping mentality that putting their products online is the way to go.
“We make the call, walk them through the website, answer any questions they might have and try to convince them that this is the future of shopping,” says Ong. “I find that after some persuasion brands are happy to give it a try, it’s also great exposure for them as we’re also doing free marketing for them.”
“It’s important for them to know that this is how people are shopping nowadays, and that they will have a wider reach to towns or cities where their brands are not available,” adds Sin.
They spend hours on the phone each day, negotiating with suppliers who each have different needs and demands and also do data entry – but these girls love their jobs.
“It’s not an easy job, you have to like challenges and fashion of course, and you must have great communication skills,” says Ong. “When there are queries or problems the suppliers will come to you, and it’s your job to keep them happy while also making sure you make a profit.”
Negotiating is a challenge, and according to Ong, getting good at it requires training and experience, but most importantly, a passion for the job.
“We talk to our suppliers more than we talk to the other Zalora buyers,” she says, laughing. “You have to be friendly, alert to what’s going on and always on the lookout for new brands and products to add to the site.”
What keeps Sin going is seeing the private labels she develops sell well on the site, and knowing that people like the products.
“When you work really hard on a brand that you’ve sourced yourself it’s like your own baby, it’s an achievement when people are saying good things about it,” she says.
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