Dream job in a store she loves

In our My Career feature, we talk to Rachel O’Donovan, Manager of Folli Follie at Brown Thomas
Dream job in a store she loves
Rachel O’Donovan of Folli Follie in Brown Thomas

Name: Rachel O’Donovan

Age: 23

Lives: Douglas, Cork.

Job title: Manager at Folli Follie, Brown Thomas, Cork.

Salary bracket: €20,000 to €30,000

Education background: I attended primary school at St Columba’s GNS. I then went onto Christ King Secondary School, where I enjoyed six extremely happy years, the teachers were amazing, so approachable and helpful every step of the way. I made some of my best friends here.

I went on to University College Cork to study Biochemistry. After two years in the course I decided it really wasn’t for me, even though it was the first choice on my CAO. It was a hard decision to change direction but looking back it was the best decision I have ever made.

The following week I met with Griffith College to discuss their Business Degree. My first impression of the college was the care and interest they showed in me, even on our first meeting. I started the course immediately. It was a three year Bachelor’s Degree in Business Studies. It has taught me such a broad range of subjects that I apply it to my current role every day, from Human Resources to Accounting.

I finished my final year exams this month. Over the last three years I have learnt so much, received so much guidance and support from the lecturers and made some great friends.

Hobbies: With working full time and going to college by night, I haven’t had much time for hobbies. But I do manage to squeeze in at least one yoga class every week and a few trips to the gym along with a walk with my dad every Sunday morning down the Marina in Blackrock, it’s become somewhat a tradition.

Describe your job in five words: Fast-paced, fun, customer-focused, fashion-forward, and rewarding.

Describe yourself in five words: Bubbly, personable, driven, confident and passionate.

Personality needed for this kind of work? I think you have to be a people person, that is what my job is all about giving every customer the best service. You build great relationships with customers and they pop in for a chat, but equally call if they need the perfect piece of jewellery for a special event or even if they just feel like treating themselves.

You need patience because you are dealing with so many different scenarios and different people all in the course of one day. You definitely need to be adaptable and organised. You need to be a good listener to be a good manager so you know how to give the best to your customer and get the best out of the team.

How long are you doing this job? I am working in Folli Follie a year.

How did you get this job? I started working in Blush Boutique; it was my first taste of retail and I instantly loved it. Working in a small boutique with Lisa, the owner, who is a total fashionista, was the best start in retail I could have asked for. Lisa taught me such valuable tips and tricks of the trade and working in a small boutique meant customer service was key. Lisa encouraged me to play with fashion by putting together outfits for merchandising and for customers.

After a year I began working in The Shoe Suite. This was a great experience for matching customers’ occasion wear with the perfect shoe and bag to compliment their outfit.

My confidence really grew here and I really got a flavour for personal styling and customer service. I also looked after the Facebook page for the store.

Since I left school, I was always working with events companies doing promotions and event management, working with some great brands. This really brought me out of myself, it grew my confidence both personally and socially. It also taught me organisational skills, social and communication skills. It would be quite ad-hoc work, taking part whenever I could fit it in, but I really enjoyed it. I haven’t worked on an event in about a year with working and studying there just wasn’t enough hours in the day.

I had always wanted to work in Brown Thomas and with a luxury brand. I applied for a job there in February 2016 and got it. I was thrilled! I was in the homewares department but after a few months I realised that fashion and accessories were my true love and I felt I wasn’t reaching my full potential. I saw a job advertised in Folli Follie, it was for a part time sales assistant. I was a huge Folli Follie fan for years and thought I would love this! I applied and was called for an interview.

Everything went great and I got the job. I then became assistant manager after Christmas and when our lovely manager Dee went on maternity leave, I got the job as Concession Manager. And here I am now — Concession Manager, for a brand I love, in a store I love.

Do you need particular qualifications or experience? Retail experience is a must. I have been working in retail since I was 18. Fashion and accessories has always been a huge passion of mine, I think that comes from my grandmother and mum, they’ve always been so creative and had fun with fashion and home décor. I think a passion for fashion comes from within, you can’t fake it.

A business degree is a bonus, it definitely grows your confidence in dealing with human resources, conversing with the marketing and accounts department.

Describe a day at work: I arrive at Brown Thomas about 8.15am every morning, a quick top up of my makeup and a cup of tea and I’m usually on the floor for 8.50am. I then open and count the cash, turn on our laptop and make out a daily planner which contains details of who is working and what shift, our targets and tasks to be carried out during the day, as well as any news that has to be communicated to the team.

I then attend a Brown Thomas morning meeting at 9.15am where all the goings on in the store are discussed, this finishes at 9.30am and the doors open. Before the first customer arrives, I ensure all visual merchandising standards are met and the counter is clean and ready for business.

Depending on the day, the duties change, for example one day a week we do a mini stock count of one department in our concession, these are vital for stock control.

Another day I may spend an hour preparing rosters for the coming week. I aim to have them prepared a month in advance to ensure everyone can make plans.

At the beginning of the week I look at the best sellers from last week and ensure they are sitting in our hotspot places, this is usually done by a mini-VM move. Delving into the figures as seeing what stock has sold in the previous weeks can give you a great insight in what stock to order more of for the coming week.

How many hours do you work a week? 37.5 hours.

What do you wear to work? Working in Brown Thomas, which is the fashion hub of Cork, gives you the opportunity to experiment and wear pieces you wouldn’t necessarily have the confidence to wear anywhere else.

Black is the uniform code so once you stay within that guideline, anything goes. An elegant dress or frilly shirt, it really depends on what I feel like wearing that day. Accompanied by some stunning Folli Follie pieces such as my go to Matchpoint Rose Gold watch and a Fashionably Silver necklace.

Is your industry male or female dominated? Female.

Does this affect you in any particular way? Yes, it’s inspiring that females are really leading the way in the fashion industry, especially at management level. This gives me the motivation to keep working hard as there are no limitations for women in this industry, even at the top levels.

Is your job stressful? How? Rate it on a scale of 1-10: Obviously, there an element of stress attached to every job. There is always a pressure for targets to be met and to keep all the team motivated to strive to meet these targets. Christmas time is always a very busy period so that can escalate the stress levels to about an 8 out of 10. A few extra cups of coffee can be needed to help get through the manic Christmas days.

Do you work with others or on your own? I work with a fantastic team here at Folli Follie; they are really a great bunch and make managing the team a joy. They all share the same passion for Folli Follie that I do. Here at Brown Thomas it’s really like one big team, everyone gets on so well and helps one another out whenever one needs it.

Best bits: I love working in the jewellery and accessory world. We have some wonderful customers who visit us to get the perfect piece to finish off their outfit for an occasion. This is what I love; it’s what makes my job interesting and everyday different. I really enjoy all the behind the scenes bits that come when you manage a concession, I enjoy making the rosters, writing trade reports and getting stuck into the figures. I have to say the team make coming to work a pleasure when you are surrounded by great people. Also, the brand, I genuinely love the Folli Follie pieces. It is such a pleasure to sell and create looks for customers when you genuinely love the product.

Worst bits: Christmas in Folli is crazy, we have queues at the counter, it’s really manic. But great too, I get a kick off the buzz in the store, the day goes so quickly, but you are tired at the end of it all.

Advice to those who want your job? Hard work. I came to Folli as a part time sales assistant, I worked really hard to make an impression. I received a lot of training and asked a lot of questions, as I had never worked in jewellery before so I had a lot to learn. I do think a business degree or certificate is a great stepping stone to a management level in retail and I have certainly felt the benefits of it.

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