A chat with our Head Buyer, Heather Fortmann, about her journey from Liberty London, and how she decides which items end up on our shelves...
You have been the Head Buyer at Snape Maltings for 12 years. Can you tell us about your career path leading to this role?
Whilst working as a Sales Assistant in Liberty London after university, I discovered the existence of ‘Buyers’. I knew then that all I ever wanted to be, was a Buyer. I stayed at Liberty for seven years, working my way up to be the Furniture Buyer. After that I worked as a Buyer in London for several years, mainly within home interiors and furniture.
Are you an early riser? Describe a typical working day for you.
I am definitely not a night owl, and I do like early mornings and a good breakfast. I appreciate the beautiful rural area in which we live more than ever, so on a fair weather day I cycle to work. Once at work, the first thing I do is meet up with our visual merchandising team on the shop floor. It’s one of the most creative parts of the day, as we chat about any changes and improvements we want to make to displays. From that point I tend to be in the buying office; we’re a wonderful team of five and are always very busy placing orders, constantly reacting to events, analysing sales figures and debating new ideas. We work closely with other teams too, including Marketing and Retail Operations.
When looking for new products for House & Garden, what criteria do you have in mind?
When deciding on new ranges, the most important question is whether we feel our customers would love them. If so, is the price right? What is the provenance, and is the quality of the product good? We try to evoke a sense of place with the ranges, and always try to buy products made from natural materials and ideally with a story attached. We’re always working on new interiors themes, and aim to create inspiring displays on the shop floor that are hopefully irresistible to our customers. In our Samphire boutique we’re serious about sustainable fashion, and aim to only stock brands with ethical and environmental credentials. The dress I’m wearing in the photo is by Bibico; one of our favourite brands whose ethos is very much about slow fashion, Fair Trade values, and using sustainable fabrics.
What is your proudest moment in your career as a Buyer?
We had to make quite a few changes after the lockdown, and re-opening House & Garden in its new layout to include Samphire Boutique, Books & Cards and Little Rascals, was a proud moment. Our team turned the shop floor upside down, and somehow it all seemed to come together perfectly.
A selection of our beautiful products are now available online – bringing you a little bit of Snape from the comfort of your own home.