Topshop Topman Oxford Circus: The Greatest Show on Earth
The Topshop Topman flagship store, known by the team as 214 Oxford Street, is a retail phenomenon. With a footprint of more than 90,000 sq ft across five floors, its 1,000 employees serve over 200,000 customers each week. It's also the beating heart of frontline fashion in the Capital and regular shopping destination of the famous and fabulous. With a range of opportunities available right now, three 214-based professionals talk about what it takes to thrive at the pinnacle of Arcadia's fashion empire.
"Our vision is to be the number one global fashion destination in the world", says Store Director Tracy Dixon. This is neither exaggeration nor over-reaching, it's what Tracy and her team expect to deliver every day at the Topshop Topman flagship store. What's more you can feel it the instant you enter the building, there's a scale and buzz to the place that make it quite unlike any other retail environment.
For starters there's no getting away from the fact that 214 is huge - in fact it's an operational region on its own. As a result, normal assumptions about job titles and remits need to be left at the door. Tracy herself, for example, was a regional controller for six years before becoming the flagship's Store Director. Her next in command are two Area Managers - it's just that the 'areas' are all in-store. This pattern continues throughout the store's management structure, as Tracy explains:
“The scale is so huge that a Manager currently operating at c.£20 million turnover elsewhere, for example, would run a third of the main Topshop floor or our ground floor in its entirety."
But the flagship buzz isn't simply a result of its size. The store epitomises what Topshop and Topman are all about. The flagship is at the cutting edge of everything that goes on in Topshop and Topman; it's constantly in the spotlight, if anything is to be launched in the business it happens there first. It is constantly changing, with a three-week stock-turn considered to be slow!
But according to Tracy the flagship Store Managers absolutely thrive on the pressure of being in the spotlight. "The Managers here love it. They come here because they want to be accountable for a fast paced business in a flagship environment. [They love] the pace and the ever-changing scale and evolution of the business. The guys here can think on their feet, they're used to the pressure, they love the pace and they're excellent leaders and business managers. People who work here are proud to work for Topshop and Topman and proud to be a part of the operation."
Of course, the look and feel of 214 is crucial to its flagship status and its ability to showcase new collections and high-profile collaborations. As such the store's creative and visual teams play a vital role in enabling the delivery of a world-leading fashion experience. Right now the visual team is a particular area of recruitment focus. "We are one of the most creative and visual brands on the whole of the high street", says Tracy, "I want people to have confidence in themselves to come and see what they can deliver within this building. We are looking for people with flair, energy and who are individual, but who can work as part of a dynamic team."
But what sort of characteristics does the Topshop Topman flagship management look for in potential employees? Beyond the basic skills needed for each specialist function (i.e. visual skills in the visual department), "we're looking for people who have resilience, initiative and the ability think on their feet. People who thrive from hitting sales targets, looking after the customers and who have a commercial approach to the business," concludes the Store Director.
Just four months into his career at Topshop, having previously been a Commercial Manager at Marks & Spencer, Brand Manager James Bellaera describes the environment and working culture at 214. "It's electric, absolutely electric. There's just an amazing energy and buzz around the store and when you're in it, everyone wants the same thing. You won't talk to one person today who's not as passionate as I am. The people who work here, they're proud to work for the flagship store because this really is the biggest fashion retail space in the world. Everyday something else is happening, it's London Fashion Week or we've got Kelly Rowland in the store or Sir Philip Green - it's always really, really exciting."
But what attracted him to work at the Top Shop flagship store in the first place? "I wanted to work for a fashion authority, a retailer that - and I think Topshop does this better than anybody else - bridged the gap between high street and catwalk fashion. I really liked the culture and theatre when you walk through the store, that really drew me in."
As Brand Manager for concessions James (with the help of his two deputies) is responsible for 250 staff, driving sales and customer service as well as talking to the Buyers and Merchandisers about product. It's very clear that the interaction with his team is a source of enormous satisfaction and motivation for him. "I've worked in retail 10 years and I've seen people from all different walks of life and all different backgrounds and [with] all different retail experience. I've never worked in a place where the people have been so passionate and so driven about a brand."
So where does James see his Topshop career going? "The next significant step for me within this store could be to look after up to one or two floors as a General Manager. If I wanted to move into another store I would consider a Store Manager for a large store like Manchester or Liverpool. You then have the roles of Area Manager within Oxford Circus or the field team and ultimately Regional Controller." The sky would appear to be the limit.
Unlike relative newcomer James, Topman Deputy Brand Manager Doran Finneran is in his second role at the flagship store. Having joined as a part-time Supervisor while studying at university, he subsequently decided that his future aspirations lay at 214 rather than in his studies.
“I enjoy working here so much more than anywhere I've ever worked before", he explains. "[In other retail jobs] you were constantly being pulled in lots of different directions, which made it really hard to just focus on what you were supposed to be doing. Here, because there are so many of us, we actually get the chance to manage and to spend time developing our team on a one-on-one basis.
“There's a lot of support if you want it, but otherwise you're given the freedom to really push yourself. You're given ownership of your own progression. Everyone is focused on the same goal and it's really results driven. There's a massive feedback culture, there is reward and recognition - it is about celebrating the people that we've got. It's something - especially here in this building that I really, really enjoy."
For clarity's sake Doran explains that his Deputy Brand Manager role exists somewhere around the Sales Manager or Floor Manager level - although the Topman space, he says, is around ten times larger than he had to manage in previous jobs. Doran's role is focussed on looking after Topman services (as opposed to product), comprising the tills, fitting rooms and the sorting room ensuring a motivated team looking to maximise sales.
Given he spends a lot of time seeking to get the most out of his team, what does he see as the personal qualities most important to thrive in the flagship store? "Hard-working, versatile, someone who has ideas...it also helps to have quite a vibrant personality!"
And finally, what would he say to anyone contemplating working at 214? "I think anyone would like working here because you'll never get the freedom to do the things you can here [anywhere else] and everything is so different on a daily basis. You certainly never get the chance to get bored! There's always something going on..."