I first met Donna Player at the launch of a menswear label breakfast event for media, which was held at David Jones, one morning before the department store was opened for the day’s trading. Highly polished with striking blonde hair, she is professional, friendly and slim with an avid love for running. (Player also runs marathons in her spare time). She has joined David Jones as the Group Executive of Merchandise and has been since July 2012. Her retail experience is impressive, with a 30-year retail career which has included Merchandise and Planning General Manager at BIG W and senior management roles across the retail sector, including Grace Bros, Katies and New Zealand manufacturer Lane Walker Rudkin.
Donna is taking over the domains of two former group merchandise executives. She is responsible for David Jones, Apparel, Footwear, Accessories, Home and Food merchandise both in-store and online. With big changes at the famed department store, Donna gave her insight into the changes in retail, how David Jones is remaining competitive on a global scale, the growth in David Jones and what brands need to know when doing business with David Jones.
Tell us about your role at David Jones …
I am the Group Executive of Merchandise. I oversee a team of about 40 buyers across all categories available in our business. I oversee inventory management, management of margins and make decisions as to which brands to exit from the business, which brands to sign up and space allocation for brands based on performance.
What impact are the cheaper chain stores from overseas having on department stores in Australia?
It’s actually good for our business because it increases interest in fashion as well as foot traffic into our stores. Most customers cross-shop across specialty stores and department stores.
What are the strongest categories in fashion in David Jones?
Our Australian designer business is very strong as is our Accessories and Footwear business.
Where do you see growth in the future? Age groups, brands and departments?
We see strong growth in the designer end of our business as well as corporate wear, youth fashion, shoes and accessories. Skin care in our Beauty business is another area of growth.
What are the requirements brands need to have in place before they are ‘David Jones ready’?
They need to be a brand our customers want and a brand that fills a gap in our assortment
As it’s a competitive market, for a brand to have longevity in David Jones, what is the minimum sell through the brand needs to achieve?
Brands need to achieve up to 80% sell through prior to our clearance. Other requirements? Great margin, point of difference and a reason for customers to keep visiting us.
Is there a buyer trainee program at David Jones? What is the best process for someone aspiring to be a buyer?
My advice? Start as a merchandise assistant or sales manager on the shop floor. Strive to learn as much as you can about all aspects of retail.
The mainstream category has not been the strongest category in David Jones, yet a label like Black Pepper, (which my fashion agency represents) is still performing really well for David Jones and the independent retailers. What do you put that down to?
I think that some brands in the mainstream category have stood still in terms of handwriting while at the same time the “forever fifty year old” is looking to be more on trend. This has impacted their sales. A brand like Black Pepper is really targeted at the older customer, a customer that is less well catered for in terms of the offer available.
The luxury market has always been quite successful for David Jones. Has it been difficult to remain competitive in the luxury market with online, the falling Australian dollar and prices comparisons overseas?
We have cost price harmonised our international brands which means they are priced on par with our international peers. We also stock current season stock in line with our international counterparts and a broad and compelling range of international brands across all categories in an easy to shop environment that customers enjoy. And we are always refreshing and adding to our brand portfolio.
What is the best thing about your job?
The variety of my job really excites me – from fashion shows in Paris, new store openings, negotiations with suppliers and catalogue shoots.