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An Email Exchange with...Sarah Coonan, Beauty Buyer at Liberty
November 27th 2015 / 0 comment
Love Liberty? Meet one of the key players behind one of the nation’s most famous beauty halls
What does it take to become a Beauty Buyer? Having played a vital part in Liberty’s success over the past 3 years, there seems no better person to ask than Sarah Coonan, the brand’s Beauty Buyer. Involving a great acumen for numbers, sales and future trends and a thorough understanding of how consumers shop, there are countless facets to this pivotal and challenging role that transcend just a passion for beauty.
Sarah originally studied Fashion at the University of the Arts Bournemouth before joining the Harrods Graduate Management Program. She moved around the store in various roles before launching her career in the Beauty Buying office where she fell in love with the beauty industry. After 5 years at Harrods, she moved to Liberty to help build the rapidly growing beauty hall. Promoted to Beauty Buyer in 2012, she has helped bring Liberty to the forefront of the beauty shopping experience, responsible for launching successful initiatives such as The Beauty Lottery and the show-stopping Liberty Beauty Advent Calendar, as well as developing the digital strategy for beauty.
We caught up with Sarah to find out more about her job, what keeps her motivated and what she loves most about being a Beauty Buyer at one of the nation’s most famous department stores.
GTG: Hit the snooze button or up-and-at-em?
SC: I’m not naturally a morning person, but I have two kids so I don’t even need an alarm clock anymore – the little one has me up with the larks and sadly he doesn’t have a snooze button!
GTG: What does the company you work for do in 10 words?
SC: Edits the best, hard to find fashion, beauty and accessories.
GTG: Best piece of work advice you ever had?
SC: Work hard and be nice to people – you can only blag it for so long.
GTG: Name three things in your working week you love doing
SC: 1. Seeing my Liberty family - we have the most amazing team in beauty and I look forward to seeing them every day - I’ve worked with some of the sales people for years and with my boss Gina, (now the buying director) for almost a decade.
2. Trading the business – I’m a numbers person and love analysing sales and reacting to what’s working. I love the feeling of finding an amazing product and seeing it fly off the shelves. This time last year, we launched Pixi Glow Tonic, £18, and it has been amazing – we quite literally can’t keep it on the shelves. It is a great feeling.
3. The product – I am a true beauty junkie and I love nothing more than trying something new. I spend a large proportion of my salary in the beauty hall and never get bored. I find new things to try all the time, even from the brands I’ve known forever. In fact last week I found an amazing Bobbi Brown product that I’d never heard of (Extra Illuminating Moisture Balm, £42, if you are interested!).
GTG: What are the 3 things you do every day before breakfast?
SC: The first thing I do is check Instagram. We launched @libertybeautyteam in May this year and it has been really exciting watching it grow. We have almost 11,000 followers already. Then it’s time to get the boys up, I have a 1 year old and an almost 6 year old so I have my hands full. After they are settled in front of a cartoon, it is time for a cup of tea.
GTG: What do you love about your job?
SC: Pretty much everything! I’m very lucky as I feel like this is my calling in life. My favourite thing has to be working with the founders of brands and helping them to grow their businesses. I’ve been fortunate enough to work with some amazing, inspirational people. I get such a buzz from being part of their journey.
GTG: What’s cooking for work lunch?
SC: Sadly, I am not a domesticated person and I hate cooking – I’m terrible at it. My work lunches consist of a mixture of The Detox Kitchen, Leon and Savage Salad – although last week, the accessories buyer Ruby and I had a Prêt Christmas Sandwich!
GTG: How do you stay organised?
SC: It is a constant battle and something I am still trying to perfect. Beauty is the biggest division in the store and I have a really small team so we are always flat out. I write lots of lists and try to really plan ahead. It is a really entrepreneurial environment and so my team take on a lot of responsibility. It is like spinning plates but I wouldn’t have it any other way.
GTG: Describe your working style in 3 words
SC: Collaborative, creative, passionate.
GTG: Typical work attire?
SC: There is a very relaxed vibe at Liberty so unless I have an important meeting, I tend to keep it quite relaxed - jeans or a great skirt with a T-shirt and a fun pair of heels.
GTG: Heels or flats and why?
SC: Heels every time! Even though I’m 5ft 9, I love wearing heels. It makes me feel more confident, slimmer and I just love a great pair of shoes. At home though, I live in Converse High Tops.
GTG: Worst job you ever had?
SC: My first job out of university was as a pattern cutter for a bridal wear manufacturer. I had to spend a lot of time in China in their factory working on new collections. It was hell. I hated every minute of it and it dispelled any myths I had about the fashion industry. It was long hours, ruthless and I haven’t touched a sewing machine since.
GTG: Notepad or i-notes?
SC: Definitely a notepad. Every year I treat myself to a Smythson Manuscript Book and I look forward to writing in it every day. I’m more creative when I can scribble in a book.
GTG: Yoga, pilates or HIIT and why?
SC: All three! My problem is I don’t do them consistently enough. I have really struggled to lose weight after having children and finding the time for exercise is a bit of a challenge. If I had to choose one it would be yoga, as it is great for de-stressing after a hectic day.