Welcome back to our “6 questions” series where we ask someone 6 career-centric questions about themselves.
This week we’re chatting with Kelsey Snyder, Assistant Merchant at American Eagle Outfitters (Aerie).
What is your typical day to day in your role?
I am an Assistant Merchant for the Aerie brand and my role is very dynamic—the day-to-day varies quite a bit depending on the week! Each day usually starts with reading/replying to any outstanding emails, throughout the day we typically have a number of meetings with our cross-functional partners. As a merchant, each day you are required to take your learnings from current business and focus on how you can affect future assortments! We learn so much about our business each day, and typically have our hands in at least 3-4 seasons at any given time!
How did you know you wanted to go into fashion, and how did you get started?
When I started researching career paths as a teenager, I was all over the place! I would make up my mind, and then change it the next week. Based on this, I knew I needed to be in an industry that was anything but predictable or monotonous. I have always had an interest in fashion, but I did not have much exposure to the industry because I grew up in a very small town. After learning more about Kent State University’s merchandising program, I knew that this career path would be the perfect fit for me. After graduating from Kent State, I worked in Columbus for another retailer before pursuing my dream job at Aerie!
What is the process of creating designs to send to manufacturing?
There’s so much that goes into the product lifecycle before merchandise actually makes its way to stores! The first steps involve working closely with our design partners to identify key trends and ideas for each season, this usually happens about a year in advance! We also use our learnings from past seasons to help curate our future assortments. Once the assortment is landed – we work with our planning partners to quantify the buy size and sales expectations of each style. Then our production team works hand in hand with our vendors to initiate the manufacturing process! Many refer to merchants as the “hub” of the wheel in the corporate retail industry, we touch almost every part of the product lifecycle process and we are responsible for the product all the way from the early stages of development up until it makes its finally set in stores & online!
Best part about your job? Most challenging?
Merchandising is incredibly rewarding, especially working for a brand like Aerie! We work so hard to create the best assortment possible for our customer, and seeing it all come to life is incredible! While working for Aerie, I quickly learned it’s about so much more than just clothes – we have the ability to help inspire and empower our customer to be their real self every single day! I have had the privilege of working on our newest brand OFFLINE by Aerie, launching this new active wear brand has been an absolute dream come true and hands down the most monumental moment of my career so far! Lastly, my team has to be one of my favorite parts of my job – I feel so lucky to work with so many amazing individuals that have truly become my family!
The most challenging part of my job is keeping up with the business and our customer! Things move quickly in the retail world, and we are always on our toes! Some weeks, this requires us to work a full schedule and it is safe to say it is not your average “nine-to-five” job, at the end of the day, the work is always worth it!
How has COVID impacted your job / the fashion industry in general?
COVID has added an element of unpredictability to the fashion industry as a whole. This pandemic has completely changed consumer behaviors, spending habits, and has forced retailers to find new and innovative ways to connect to their customer. It has been interesting to see how our customer has adapted with working from home, attending online classes and quarantining. We have learned so much about our customer, and have seen a rise in our “lounge” categories specifically; no surprise as I am also guilty of living in my favorite fleece sets and comfy sports bras while working from home!
In regards to my job specifically, we have been working remote since the beginning of the pandemic. Recently, we have started to transition back into the office a few days a week to manage samples, preview floorsets and work on future development…all while remaining social distance and wearing masks (of course)! It was difficult to separate ourselves from the product when we first started working from home, as a lot our job requires us to be hands on. Since March, we have adapted so many of our processes to better suit our needs while working from home. I am fortunate to be part of an incredibly adaptive and forward-thinking company that has given us the resources to keep moving during even the most uncertain times!
Advice for someone wanting a job like yours, specifically at Aerie?
Hmm…where to start! My two biggest pieces of advice would be 1) Always keep in contact with your network and retail connections (and never burn any bridges, the retail community is much smaller than you’d think!) 2) ALWAYS trust your gut and stay true to yourself! I started pursuing a career at Aerie after only 9 months in my first job. I was so scared to “start over” so early on in my career but in my heart, I knew that working for Aerie was my absolute dream and working for a company that supported my own personal values was 100% worth the leap! When looking for jobs at Aerie, I reached out to a recruiter that I had met years earlier while looking for an internship and although I ended up pursuing a different route for my internship, having that connection definitely gave me a leg up just a few down the road! I would recommend keeping tabs on the AEO Inc. Site (www.aeo-inc.com), as well as growing your network on LinkedIn.
Additionally, for someone looking to pursue fashion in general, I would say get ready to hustle! It is hard work, but it is incredibly fulfilling! I have learned so much about myself in such a short period, working for Aerie has truly taught me all that I am capable of so much!
LEARN MORE ABOUT OPPORTUNITIES AT AEO! Join us for our upcoming career info sessions – link below!
Kelsey grew up in a small town near Erie, Pennsylvania, although she wasn’t raised in a city immersed with opportunities in fashion, she always had a knack for creativity, entrepreneurship and the drive to find herself a career in merchandising. By attending Kent State University for Fashion, she was able to pursue her dreams of entering the fashion industry immediately after graduation, working for two corporate retail powerhouses by her early twenties. She has spent the last year dedicating her time to help launch AEO Inc.’s newest sub-brand, OFFLINE by Aerie. However, as a firm believer in the saying “Work Hard, Play Hard” – Kelsey can often be found with her mini-dachshund by her side exploring new craft breweries, guiltless obsessing over the bachelor franchise, and tending to her endless collection of plants. Instagram: @_kelseysnyder