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  • Role: Supply Chain Manager
  • Location: Nottingham
  • University: Loughborough
  • Degree: Retail Management

Matthew Hattersley

Managing a busy supply chain in a large department store takes a high level of commitment and as recent graduate, Matthew Hattersley discovered, early mornings and the pressure to deliver. But it’s not all hard work and no play. He explains just what a typical day entails and why there is much more to retail than some might think.

Why did you decide to pursue a career in this retail?

One of the main factors was my time at Loughborough University. During my degree I looked at many retail case studies – the sector overall really excited me. Working in retail offers a diverse range of opportunities and every day brings up different challenges – especially when you’re dealing with customers.

I have not laid out any specific career plans but the graduate scheme has given me the opportunity to try different areas of the business and given me a steer towards what route I might take.

Tell us some more on how you started out…

I have been with the Partnership for two years and have worked in a number of different branches including Milton Keynes and Welwyn Garden City. I trained as a graduate for approximately 12 months before I secured my first department manager’s position at John Lewis Nottingham in the China and Glass department. After a busy six months over the Christmas period I was then given the opportunity to take on the supply chain, which has a totally new set of challenges.

I have also had experience in Women’s Fashions, Menswear, Toys and Nursery and Audio and TV to broaden my knowledge of the business.

What is the most valuable lesson you have learned since graduation?

The most valuable lesson I have learned during my time in employment is to constantly communicate with colleagues. The moment you start to assume messages have been delivered or tasks have been completed, you are in danger of losing control of what is happening– you always need to check that things are ticking over.

Communication is essential in my job as a Supply Chain Manager as on a daily basis we have to manage and co-ordinate anything from merchandise, mail, new equipment to food deliveries and stationery. Without communicating to key stakeholders and ensuring the effective delivery of messages to my team, the ability to plan daily workloads would be impossible.

So what does a typical day entail for you?

As the Supply Chain Manager at the branch I am responsible for more than 60 John Lewis Partners. A typical day for me would start at around 08.00 in the morning although my operation will have been running from 06.00; a section manager is in at this time to ensure the supply chain is ready for trading.

In the morning when the shop first opens I like to complete a walk of the shop to ensure my replenishment team are completing regular fill ups of each department to maximise availability of products for the customer. I then attend a daily morning meeting which involves branch management with a few of my peers from each selling department. In this meeting we discuss the day’s targets as well as staffing levels.

Throughout the day my job is to ensure the supply chain is running efficiently. I monitor deliveries, stock movement, replenishment and stock storage disciplines ensuring they are completed to the best and quickest time possible. My role very much involves regular communication whether it is in management meetings, communication sessions with my team or emails to the rest of the branch regarding developments in supply chain that can influence the way the shop floor operates.

I have responsibility for a number of different work streams or projects. This year I have been given the task of improving the branches green and recycling credentials. Working with a team of volunteers who meet with me on a regular basis, we aim to educate partners to improve the way the branch deals with waste and recycling.

What aspects of your job do you enjoy most?

The aspect I enjoy most is everyone’s willingness to make the business succeed and I think this has a lot to do with the structure of the company. John Lewis is a very unique place to work; mainly because it has a co-owned business model so all employees (Partners) have a stake in the business. As we’re all owners, we are willing to go the extra mile, not just for customers but for each other; it makes the job I do much easier and has a really positive effect on the working environment.

Tell us about the most stressful experience on the job

I wouldn’t say there are any really stressful aspects to my role, I really enjoy coordinating a busy supply chain operation. However, if there is one piece of advice I can give to anyone aspiring to be graduate trainee, it is to ensure you make time for yourself and take a break. This is something I learned early on in my career and it definitely helps me optimise my performance at work. At John Lewis, there is a fantastic work/life balance and we’re actively encouraged to have a healthy approach to our working lives. I think this is evident in every branch you walk into – customer service is really great and at my branch, as well as other branches, we have a very engaged and motivated workforce.

What kind of advice would you give to a graduate considering a career in retail?

Retail is a very diverse industry and one which I would recommend to any prospective management trainee. I originally studied Automotive Retail Management, so working for John Lewis was not in my original career plan. As I studied a degree not specifically linked to this type of retail, I did in the early stages of applying have concerns that I would not be able to transfer my strengths to benefit the business. However, I quickly discovered this was not the case. Completing a degree is much like a full-time job. At university you attend lectures to gain knowledge about a specific subject and then are tested on what you have learnt over time.

My knowledge of the role and company grows each day and I am tested on how well I deliver results for the business. University taught me that with the right tools and preparation I can deal with any challenge or test. These principles apply in retail or any other industry. I have discovered that the degree you study at university should not dictate your career path.

What does it take to be successful in the retail world?

The key to being successful in retail in my opinion is the will to succeed and having a passion to deliver excellent customer service. If you stick to those principles you can’t go wrong.

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