Anyone doubting the value of retail training may wish to take note of the stellar career of Marigay McKee, the outgoing Harrods’ Chief Merchant.
Her early 1990s move from New York’s Estee Lauder to Newcastle-upon-Tyne’s Fenwick department store may have seemed, on paper, counter-productive for career development – however, it was Fenwicks that sent Marigay to a course at Oxford Summer School (OSS) which proved inspirational to the incoming President of Saks Fifth Avenue.
Marigay explained, “As a buyer at Fenwicks, I was entered into the Buyer Training Programme in 1994, which required me to attend the Oxford Summer School.
“It was the first time I was really focused on thinking seriously about my career. The OSS opened my eyes to thinking in a broader scope; until then, for example, I wasn’t necessarily thinking about how advertising might impact on my work.”
“I liked all of the case studies that were presented to us; one day the case study would be on finance, the next on creative, the following day advertising – all very informative. I also found the speakers impressive, Stan Kaufman of Allders making a particularly big impression.”
Marigay’s fellow students made a mark of their own too. She continued, “I found the OSS to be a great sounding board – I was lucky enough to spend a lot of time with students from John Lewis and Marks and Spencer, all great people to bounce ideas off. The students also contributed to the most challenging aspects to the course: the late nights and the socialising!”
It appears the OSS absolutely played its part in developing one of the UK’s leading lights in retail. So what wisdom can Marigay pass on almost 20 years on from her stint at OSS?
“Competition today is more than it ever has been in retail – anyone developing a retail career should be prepared for this.” Evidently, the OSS can play an integral part in this preparation.