It’s been three months since our new retail apprenticeship programme kicked off. We sat down with two of our retail apprentices Emily and Ciara to hear them out about their experiences on the programme so far. The fresh-faced high school graduates, who deliberately opted for this programme over a standard university path, tell us about the first-hand fashion experience they’ve been receiving.
How did you end up on the apprenticeship programme at Harvey Nichols?
Emily: After going to school in Devon, I did a few internships with PR companies in the fashion industry, which I really enjoyed. I then saw this apprenticeship being advertised and I applied for it because it sounded really good: learning whilst getting experience and getting paid was exactly what I was looking for.
Ciara: Having grown up in London I did some work experience in the city, such as for Hobbs. After finishing my A-levels, I realised that university wasn’t for me. The fashion industry which I was looking to grow in doesn't always rely on qualifications, so I thought to myself: "why not start off as the little fish and grow from there?"
Today you have come to our Head Office for your weekly training session. What have you been up to today?
Emily and Ciara: Today we had our weekly training day at Head Office, where we study a different learning module every time, such as serving Chinese or Arabic customers. This morning we visited our competitors in London to do a SWOT analysis and compare their business to Harvey Nichols. From this assignment we came up with some good ideas to implement in our customer service. At the end of this day we’ll be making a video diary about what we learned and how we are going to apply it to our job.
What has been your experience on the programme so far? Emily: The experience has made me more confident, as you have to speak to people and go up to them to get sales. I feel like I am progressing with the career I want to be doing and I’m learning a lot about the industry during these weekly training sessions as well. The best thing has been all the great people I’ve met in the store!
Ciara: I really enjoy it. I’ve grown and matured a lot. The work environment is also very nice. I love that I have conversations with the most senior people in the store and that they know me personally; this makes me feel recognised rather than being just a number. What's more, everyone in our team got on straight away: it has been great meeting people with similar interests. The thrill of not knowing who’s going to come into the store next and getting to know customers is something I love.
What do you want to do in the future? Emily: I would like to become more familiar with the business and marketing/PR side of fashion once I have that store experience. All my managers know what I’m aiming for and help me to achieve that; it’s great that they want to get the best out of us.
Ciara: I want to stay at Harvey Nichols and explore the buying side of the business. I feel like it’s really possible to prove yourself here, progress and explore new things.
Why do you like doing an apprenticeship at HN in particular?
Ciara: Harvey Nichols really trusts you to do you own thing and encourages you to be independent. We can go up to all the floors and be gone with a client for hours because they trust our sale skills, which in the end makes us more confident to give a customer a real experience.
Emily: The communication in the business is really good. If you do something well it is recognised and appreciated and to me that means a lot. I work on the 1st floor, but I remember someone from the 4th floor congratulating me on my big sale when he walked past me. That just made me smile. The atmosphere is also very positive. In general people are quick to pick on faults, but at Harvey Nichols it’s the opposite: they point out positives and make sure faults don’t happen.