What does it take to be a Flagship Shop Manager? An interview with David Brown from Timberland

There’s three things about working in retail that you can learn from David Brown:

  1. Managing a retail team only works when you see yourself as one of them
  2. The right attitude is more important than experience 
  3. Purpose in your career can influence your whole life

As General Manager of Timberland’s new Purpose-Led Flagship Store in Carnaby Street, London, David Brown is responsible for 241 square meter retail space and managing a team of 24 to ensure the smooth operation of the daily business. To maintain this, his management and interpersonal skills need to be over-the-top - and here’s why: A flagship store is the leading store of a brand. Even though the typical KPIs like sales or turnover do matter, the main focus of the flagship store is on drawing attention and visitors. Thus, transforming it into a showcase with an extraordinary shopping experience. 

On one hand, this is achieved through a special interior design and a wide range of products. On the other hand though, the realization happens thanks to a high-quality team which also act as ambassadors for their brand.

The store and its employees are so to speak a prototype of retail, making David an experienced and valuable interview partner to get an insight into the career of a Shop Manager. 

In this interview, we talked with David about his work at Timberland’s new Purpose-Led Flagship Store, his managing skills and - important enough - purpose. 

Dear Readers, please meet David Brown.

So, David, you’re managing quite a big team. 

I’ve got a team of approximately 24 at the moment. 4 of those are managers as well, so making sure that the  delegation is handed out to the right managers in order to keep a smooth running operation of the store. Everyone is working on specific job roles that are required to complete a regular working day.

And what makes your team stand out? How would you describe it?

It’s very important for it to be family-orientated, because if you’re spending up to 40 hours work with certain individuals. You’re probably spending more time with them than you’re at home. The family atmosphere is very important, because I am a great believer in leading by examples. Whatever I do, I would expect my team to be up to the same thing. So family atmosphere is important. 

Talking about leading by example - which example do you give?

I love to give the most basic. We all use the toilet. We clean the toilet. I will mob the floors, so it’s never going to be something that I expect my team to shy away from. Because I am part of the team. So that is my number one example, it keeps a clear message that I am prepared to do anything that I would also ask them to do as well.

That is quite important and they probably appreciate it a lot.

I think it’s important because gone are the days where managing staff exempts you from doing the same work as the team. I am very much a team player and that is how we get positives on the day. And ensuring that everyone is on the same page.

Does it create a community?

Well, right now we have a big community in the store. We go out and work alongside charity shops, getting involved with any events that are happening in the local community. My role then tends to bring that community spirit within the store. If you lead by example, the team pretty much follow suit with that. 

It’s also something Timberland represents, the community spirit that the brand lives in their sustainability projects.

We live and breath that. Last night I was in my local area where we are re-greening the area. The turnouts of 500 volunteers turned up yesterday. And they finished it up with a live gig from which again brought a lot of the community together, so we can reflect that with the store as well.

Jumping back to 2015: What was the motivation back then to apply for the role as Shop Manager at Timberland?

I felt that I needed a change. I have been with my previous employer of work for 15 years. I needed to take on a challenge, and knowing certain individuals that were happy in a - we call it a big peoples-company - it’s.. you’re not serving kids, you’re serving professionals, you’re serving individuals from multiple components of life. And that really interested me. My aim was to go to a company where customer service was customer service. Being a manager you had the autonomy to do things in the store and be able to see the benefits from the work. And that’s what Timberland really stood out for for me. Also, being part of VF Group. Understanding how big the corporation was... we could literally do anything.

So did you find the challenge and the purpose in your job at Timberland?

Timberland has really opened my eyes in terms of purpose and how we bring it directly to the stores where we are selling on a day to day basis. And how we connect purpose to the customer.

Purpose has allowed me to switch from driving a Diesel Car to an electric car. My emissions is zero. And I’ve looked at my household where we have caused a minimum at emissions. We recycle. Food, waste, cardboard, plastic. So that’s some of the things that really have been influenced by working for Timberland.

Just to make a quick excursion, I had an interview with Alicia Pinckney, Designer @Timberland, and she actually said something similar: That she found a purpose in her job and a change in her lifestyle when she started working for Timberland. Which I personally think is amazing as it is something a lot of people aim for.

It’s definitely been life-changing because you’re comfortable, because you can see what the company’s philosophy stands for, where they want to take it. If I give an example, theres not one down-feathered jacket in my store and we have some fairly big jackets. It’s all recyclable materials.  So in-sync with what I do at home, what I do when I’m coming to work, what I do at work, for me, it’s like a cycle, for me being as green as I possibly can and Timberland has definitely kickstarted that.

And do you think you influence Timberland in return as well?

Definitely. I am in a unique position being in a flagship store. You’re able to talk to various levels in the business. They definitely listen, because it’s important. And if you feel that you been listened to, it also inspires you to do more things and to feel good by it.

Looking back on your own experience, if you had to give advice on how to achieve a career at a Flagship Store, maybe even as a Shop Manager, especially for Retail or Sales experienced candidates who would like to reach the next level. What would you say which qualities are absolutely essential for your job?

I think you need to be very open-minded. You need to come to a company like Timberland knowing that the level expectation that is needed has to be grown from within. You’ve got to be prepared to make changes, be prepared to evaluate what you’ve learned previously and how you can have the right attitudes which is what’s going to be needed.  And once you have that, you’ve got the foundation. 

Do you think a Shop Manager should always have been working in retail before?

No. I certainly don’t. That’s qualities that you can also bring even without the retail experience. And still can make a big difference in the store. I think gone are the days where one has to have 100% retail experience. It’s the right attitude and what they can bring to the team or to the store. You’ve got to be open.

Always. And good with people probably.

Yes, definitely. 


The article grabbed your attention and you would like to join the Timberland team? All jobs from Timberland can be found at their company profile and the Timberland career portal.

Editor's Note: Timberland is part of VF, the the global company behind around 30 of the world’s leading sports, outdoor and lifestyle brands.
Timberland ®’s dedication to make quality products is bringing outdoor adventures within your city lifestyle. A global leader in premium-quality footwear, apparel and accessories that is equally committed to environmental and social responsibility

How products come to life: An interview with Hermin Uzer from Napapijri

You might ask yourself: How exactly does a sketch from a Designer turn into a real product? As we just have a very general answer to this question ourselves, we passed it on to an expert in this field.
Hermin Uzer, Head of Product Development of Napapijri since 2011, translates design ideas and transforms them into three-dimensional products on a daily base, through all of the stages involved in developing outdoor apparel from concept to final product.

We were lucky to have her give us passionate insights into her work at Napapijri, shed some light on what exactly product development is (and what it is not) and after all, how it brings the brand to life.

Sportyjob: Let's jump right in. I have to admit I always found it difficult to really explain what Product Development actually is. Maybe you can help me and the readers get a better understanding of it. What exactly is it that you do at Napapijri?

Hermin Uzer: In a nutshell, product development is making the garments three-dimensional. You know, we make the garments real. There’s a lot that needs to be done, so where we start is basically when we get the briefing and the target from our merchandising team where they note the retail prices, the line architecture, what kind of innovations or carry-over-styles we need to consider. What the general direction is. It’s the same briefing that the designers get.
Based on that, we deliberate who the right vendor would be. And after that, we would get the initial sketches and ideation from the designers and we would work with the raw materials team to arrange all the components that are needed to make the product real.

SJ: So it’s basically the entire journey from the product. And if you would break it down how your department develops new products from scratch to market, how would you describe it?

We would start with the sketch from the designers and create a technical description for it. We then send the technical sketches to the vendor.
So, we make detail sheets, we scan sketches for construction and design features that we have to specify. This might be a very specific sleeve-construction, a specific fit or functionality that we need to take into consideration. It's really about every single detail. The color, the applications, prints, specific stitches. Maybe other features or handcrafts. Completely sketch out every single thing and component so that it's absolutely clear what the vendor needs to produce.

SJ: And after that?

HU: For the second step, we actually visit the vendor and together with them look at how the construction came out. Is it nice? Are there limitations? Do we have to make some adjustments? And directly in the factory, we work together with those vendors, making sure that the design is something that we can realize in the garment.

SJ: What's the biggest challenge about it?

HU: Our most intensive work is maintaining the design integrity within the possibilities that exist. So, coming back to what I said back earlier, the target that the merchandiser's define is a very important factor in product development, but keeping the design integrity is even more important. Because that, you know, that gives the wa-woomm and the life and the DNA to the brand!


The target that the merchandiser's define is a very important factor in product development, but keeping the design integrity is even more important. Because that, you know, that gives the wa-woom and the life and the DNA to the brand!

Hermin Uzer

HU: Anyway, that’s usually the part where we spend 80% work time on, going back and forth to the vendors, working on the washes, applications, the sizing, the construction, the workmanship, the pricing, the fabrics and everything. It’s a lot. It’s basically everything.
That’s why I said in a nutshell it’s making a design three dimensional. It’s not just going to the vendor and a sample comes out. It’s really working in translating the inspiration from the designer, but maintaining the KPI from the merchandiser in order for them to place it on the market.
After that, we would get a first product, we would have a review meeting with both merchandisers and the designers to get their feedback on the execution, on the color, on the intensity, on the price, etc. And usually, we construct a garment further until we get to a second prototype. And so on until the final product comes out.

SJ: A very extensive process.

HU: We also have to take into consideration the testing part on quality: this requires testing of the fabric and the components, but also full testing of the garment - do all features and benefits work in construction, such as seam-taping, or wash details, colour migration? Does the fabric work in combination with the excecution – pilling, snagging, and so on. To make sure we deliver an up to standard product to the consumer, we have to look at each and every aspect while developing.


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GZwQ7uOoWik
Hermin Uzer goes into further detail on how she develops products for Napapijri


SJ: It seems like Product Development and the Design process are very entwined. You studied Design yourself at the AMFI. Does it come in handy for your position?

HU: I would say yes and no. It’s very difficult. I mean I started out as a Designer indeed. However, at the time that I started, Design, Development, Coloring, being responsible for graphics and production, was all-in-one.
In that period of time, you know, as a Designer, we were obliged to go to the factories and take care of the realisation ourselves.
And I clearly remember the moment it had changed when some bigger corporations came to Holland - that is in my case, as I work in Amsterdam - there was a moment when I had a talk with a large international company and they asked me „Ok, you have to make a choice. It’s either design or either development.“ And I was like „What do you mean? Design and Development is one and the same." But in this company, Designer's were in charge of setting up and designing the collection, but the developers were responsible for the realization of the product. That’s when I decided, I'd rather go into the product development side, because realization for me is more important. Because you can have a beautiful sketch, but then the outcome might not be like you imagined.
So I wanted to be as close as possible to the design. However, when I look at some of people that I worked with in the past who have been in my team of developers, you know, most of them they are younger and they didn’t have any design experience, but they’re extremely good developers. I think if you have a combination of understanding creativity, even though it’s not your own design, and understanding the DNA of the company and the creativity of the Designer, being able to translate it into a construction so that you don’t change the styles too much - that’s the most important asset you can have as a developer.


If you have a combination of understanding creativity, even though it’s not your own design, and understanding the DNA of the company and the creativity of the Designer, being able to translate it into a construction so that you don’t change the styles too much - that’s the most important asset you can have as a developer.

Hermin Uzer

SJ: That's incredible! I need to admit that I’ve actually never really distinguished between Design and Product Develoment.

HU: Honestly, I think you shouldn’t. Over the last 25 years, it’s how the development went. I am happy to see that nowadays, especially with the upcoming of digital design, the new master studies at fashion schools turn their focus on creating styles digitally. I see the fusion of Design and Development come back more and more. Because those students are obliged to really understand construction, pattern making, fabrics, applications and everything, whereas there was a time when design was only focused on creativity. Realization was important, but not in depth. I see that coming back in the newer generations.

SJ: Yeah sure, it is really important that the Designer's have an understanding of the overall process.

Yes! It is! In my opinion, designers and developers do have different strengths, but they should actually know exactly the same. It’s like your left and right arm. And without one the other would not function.

SJ: Let's finish with a personal insight. What is your favorite part of being a product developer?

HU: It’s being in touch with the product. Even though it’s something that I don’t design, it is designed in my brand, so it’s also something from me. Just having the challenge to realize that design and enable the adaption from all sides, from quality, execution, targets and design integrity. That’s - it’s always nice! It becomes your little baby. You’re responsible from Step B onwards - but even without Step A, it’s your little baby.



Editor's Note: Napapijiri is part of VF, the the global company behind around 30 of the world’s leading sports, outdoor and lifestyle brands.
With a finnish name, the norwegian flag as a logo and found in Italy, Napapijri represents a global mindset through the intersection of boundaries, culture, nature and art. The brand portfolio includes Menswear, Womenswear and Childrenswear.

Meet Alicia Pinckney: Designer at Timberland

Timberland Designer Alicia Pinckney

Passionate, creative and a very contagious smile: That's Alicia Pinckney. The Men's Apparel Designer of Timberland heritage talked to us about her career, what inspires her and the possibilities for sustainable solutions of sports fashion design.

Sportyjob: I've seen you had your 2 years anniversary these days. Congratulations!

Alicia Pinckney: [laughs] Thank you!

SJ: So, how have your last two years at Timberland been?

AP: I feel like these last two years have gone by so quickly! I've joined the team together with a bunch of new people, so in a sense, we kind of build the brand up again with a completely new team. With that in mind, there has been a lot of evolution, a lot of structure changes, just a lot of things happening in these last two years. So I think that’s what made it go by really fast! I’ve just been keeping up with everything that has been going on. I like fast pace and that’s what Timberland has been. It’s always been open for change and constantly evolving to something new. So it has been a very interesting time in my two years here, meeting different people, traveling to different places around the world.

SJ: Is it something that sparks your creativity, going so fast pace?

AP: I definitely think it is! Because for me, if I feel like I am stagnated or anything isn’t happening, my creativity can lie dormant. But if you have something that is stimulating you, like going to new places, being exposed to new cultures, that keeps the creativity and juices flowing. Whenever we design for a new season, we are always traveling - I can say that it definitely helps with the creativity.


If I feel like I am stagnated or anything isn’t happening, my creativity can lie dormant. But if you have something that is stimulating you, like going to new places, being exposed to new cultures, that keeps the creativity and juices flowing

Alicia Pinckney

SJ: Let's go back two years. Do you remember your first product that came to store?

AP: Yeah, actually! When I first joined the team in July 2017, I immediately started working on a collaboration project with Christopher Raeburn. Then, around June 2018, it was presented at the London Fashion Week. It was our first time having a Timberland product on a runway during fashion week. So that was something! I was like: "Wow, I just started and I already see my stuff!". Normally, when you start at a company, it takes a while to actually see your designs in action, because of the timelines we are working on.
Another few months later I saw it in our Flagship Store in London in Regent Street, which was very cool and very exciting! And when I went back home to America, I went into the New York store and I saw that we had a popup store based on showing this product, because this project was so significant for sustainability. You see, Christopher Raeburn is all about reuse, reduce, recycle and circular design. And our product was basically that. We made sure that all of our cotton that we used was organic, any part that is possible can be recycled. It was basically like a very closed circular collection. The intent was reducing waste and making use of waste, everything we used from very sustainable resources.

SJ: Talking about sustainability. Timberland has been doing a lot to reduce the carbon foot print of the fashion industry. One of their goals is to reuse 100% recycled materials until 2020. What is your role in reaching these goals?

AP: We’ve been training a lot on circular design. I am not sure if you’re familiar with that. You look at design in general, normally it’s very linear, we pick up a resource, we use it and then it’s wasted. And no one does anything with the waste. But the concept of circular design does. You start with the resources, make fabric from it which - after the consumer uses it - can be remade into something else and can go back to the beginning loop of the resources. It can be regenerated for something else. So, we should eliminate our carbon foot print, not have so much waste. A lot of our decision making also depends on: ok it can be repaired, so the customer doesn’t have to throw it away. Which is a big factor. Or we also can choose things that are already recycled, for example, companies using recycled nets from the ocean. It’s about doing the research, to take waste and making something out of it.  So it’s a lot of thinking what we’re doing and honestly, out of all the big companies that I’ve worked for, Timberland is the most aware in the details to help reduce our carbon footprint.

SJ: How does sustainability influence your designs?

AP: I feel that it influences my way of designing in the way that when people think of me as a designer or like when you think of the idea of any designer, you automatically think of fashion, trends, that’s it. But for me, I think, having this whole topic of sustainability in the forefront of my mind, I am not just chasing after fashion. I am chasing after what makes a change for the world. I know it sounds a bit cliché, but if you only stay relevant with what’s happening in trends, honestly, a lot of trends aren’t that great for the environment. So, it really changes my way of designing, because I am not really trend and fashion focused, I am more purpose and function focused.


I am not just chasing after fashion. I am chasing after what makes a change for the world

Alicia Pinckney

SJ: So, you don’t only have an impact on Timberland's design, but it also has one on you!

AP: Yeah, I can definitely agree with that. It feels like it gives you a sense of purpose. Because I feel that when you’re designing with not having anything in mind other than creating a garment that someone looks nice in, you kind of feel - I don’t know about anyone else, but for me - I kind of feel empty. Because this is what I am contributing to the world, that is my purpose.
When you look at the DNA of Timberland and the fact that we’re trying to do good for the world, while we also do this creative part of designing, you can feel a bit a balance of your fulfillment. Because you’re doing creative stuff, but you’re also doing something that is going to actually make a difference. Instead of just filtering the world or just oversaturating the world with garments, garments, garments, we’re trying to make a difference. Because of course, garments will always be a part of our life here, but if you can do it in a way you’re not killing the world, you feel a sense of purpose, of personal purpose.

SJ: Finding this fulfillment as an employee must be extraordinary for you, because before you were freelancing, you had your own brand GLEON 1938. It probably must have been a big change when switching from your own products to representing a brand. How is it different when working for a brand than doing your own products?

AP: I think it’s completely different as you are working collaboratively. Everything is build off of a team, from the initial ideation of the direction for the season to working with different partners to help to complete the collection. Whereas when I was working on my brand, I did everything on my own. I cut and sewed, and created my own patterns. I was connecting with different creatives, from my photographers to models and event creators for whenever I did fashion shows. At Timberland, we're involving another community of manpower to help get the brand globally reached.
But what I definitely think is the difference when you’re working for a brand is, not only do you have the financial support, but you can actually make a global statement when it comes to being sustainable.
But I really think you can take your ideas and your mindset from working  on your personal brand and bring the two at a larger scale when you’re working collaboratively with other designers. You can really see how it can become something big.

SJ: Would you say your old designs have become a part of your new work as well?

AP: I can definitely say that. For me, I have always been into function, as I mentioned before. Growing up, I have always been into maths and science. I was really into engineering throughout high school. And when I decided to pursue fashion design, it was another way to let out my creative side. So when I was designing personally for my brand,  I did a lot of things that required a lot of function. So, for me, I used that same way of thinking coming from Timberland. Whenever we design something, we always design with a purpose. Whenever we present something, we can’t just say „Oh I did this pocket, because it looks nice“. We have to have a true reason why we did it. Especially, for me working off of the heritage of Timberland, we defined our customer and our customer loves function. Our customer goes outside a lot. so, you know we need to be able to equip them with anything they'll need, whether it’s multiple pockets or a reversibility or whatever. Every detail that he can use when he’s outside. so for me, I was able to translate my functional way of thinking to Timberland.

SJ: Looking back, what is your favorite part of being a fashion designer?

AP: I have so many favorite parts of being a fashion designer  [laughs]. First, I would say the traveling is one of my favorite parts, because I love to travel and I am really really excited and grateful to have a job that allows me to travel. Seeing different cultures, seeing different things that help inform your collections.
The second thing I can say is when you actually get the garment, because you spend so much time sketching in 2D or sketching on the computer and then when you actually receive the garment that feeling to see it is just like „wow amazing!“. To see it transform from paper to an actual product is a very... it’s kind of like a confirmation.

SJ: Hearing this, you’re very passionate about your job. Which is great! You’d probably recommend becoming a designer.

AP: Yeah, I do!

SJ: If you would have to advice someone who wants to become a designer, which advice would you give him or her on how to achieve this career?

AP: I would definitely say, to surround yourself with people who you aspire to be. Getting to know other people that are designers. To ask questions. That way you can, you know, get advice from them. Also, be open to learn on your own. Do a lot of research. Like for me, I have always done a lot of research, I learned how to sew when I was 12. That was kind of a self-taught process. So when you’re open to researching, problem solving, anything like that that can really help you and boost you to becoming a designer.

Self-Taught Designer: All garments designed, cut and sewn by Alicia Pinckney for Vogue Italia's Call for Talents IV where she scored a scholarship for the Domus Academy's Master Fashion Design - © Vogue Italia

SJ: Did you already know that you want to be a designer when you were 12?

AP: Yes!!! I know, it’s so crazy. As i mentioned before I was really smart in school, like i was the valedictorian and the president of my class. I was really smart, I was like the mathlete nerd kind of girl. But at the same time, my family is filled with a lot of creativity. My mother works a lot with wood and my grandfather used to build with wood, too, he was a carpenter and a painter. And for me, just being surrounded by that as a kid was always something I also wanted to do. So I used to sketch all the time! I got my first sewing machine when I was 12. And from there, I used to make a lot of things, I made my prom dresses when I was in high school. So for me this was always a part of who I was, I’ve always known I wanted to be a designer since I was very young. And i just took the path to follow to get me to where I am now.