Charlie Duffay, Senior Merchandiser at PVH
Charlie Duffay is the Senior Merchandiser at PVH, one of the most admired fashion and lifestyle companies in the world. Their brand portfolio includes the iconic Calvin Klein, Tommy Hilfiger, Van Heusen, IZOD, ARROW, Warner’s, Olga and Geoffrey Beene brands, as well as the digital-centric True&Co. intimates brand.
Outside of work, Charlie is a real socialite and artist, enjoying the restaurant scene of London, and life drawing classes.
1. How did you first get into retail, and what attracted you to the sector initially?
A friend reached out about a planning role at Burberry a couple of months after I’d left university. I’ve always loved fashion and the role gave me an opportunity to work for an amazing brand and continue studying (I qualified in management accounting whilst working.) I have a business and accounting background, but knew I preferred the application over the technical (my tax modules were tough!).
2. How has the retail sector changed since you first began your career, and have you had a role in the changes?
I think brands can no longer take things for granted. There are so many pressures from grassroots brands with Direct-to-Customer (DTC) selling, to re-sale sites and environmental concerns. Consumers have a lot of choice and a lot of access, they expect authenticity and transparency from brands. Token efforts won’t gain any loyalty.
Undoubtedly, change in speed to market, direct marketing, and price, have an impact on decision making for even the most luxury brands. Cyber weekend is a great example of how brands have had to adjust. The huge popularity of the event has led to more and more brands participating, with increasing breadth and depth of offers
3. If we bumped into you outside the office, where would we most likely find you?
Currently, my house… but normally, loads of restaurants, I head to a few exhibitions and try to do some life drawing to get some different parts of my brain firing.
I feel like most of my life (was) taken up with commuting, so have tried to force myself to spend that time reading instead of scrolling. I’m not living so centrally now, but when I was, it’s the best thing ever spending time in all the parks with your friends, some make shift picnic rugs, with drinks. There’s always such an amazing vibe to London when the sun is shining.
4. In light of recent high profile retailers going under, how do you think retailers should be adapting to stay alive?
Retailers need to be realistic and honest in their decision making, and stay true to what their customer is after. It’s good to be adaptable, but not at the expense of your brand DNA. Price creep has a huge impact on the decision to buy an item, and, whilst it’s a little sad, there are now huge online only brands that are creating very similar products at much lower prices which has really impacted the high street.
Targets and goals need to be aligned to what’s happening in the market, brands need to be creative to delivery results.
I think making the in store employee experience a good one is also crucial, there’s often a focus on the customer experience, which brings more and more pressure to front line sales staff, but unless you’re offering them a positive experience and compelling package, it’s very hard to attract the kind of talent that truly wants to be there giving the customer that time and energy.
5. What excites you about retail?
It’s so fast moving, I get to deal with product that excites me, and be a part of something so visible.
There’s a huge amount of pride that comes with seeing product you chose in a store window, seeing brand new spaces open up and come to life, and see the reaction to campaigns and partnerships you’ve been a part of supporting.
Fashion is so inherently part of culture, and the challenge to stay relevant takes a lot of voices and team work. You really have the opportunity to feel you’ve contributed to something people are talking about.