A True Merchant
Merchants are born, not made, says Jennifer Anderson Benevides, merchandising manager at Sturbridge Yankee Workshop, a Portland, ME-based catalog of country-inspired home furnishings. A former apparel buyer for a retailer, Benevides is new to cataloging and is thriving on its multi-faceted challenges. She recently spoke with Alicia Orr Suman, freelance writer and the former editor in chief of Catalog Success.
Catalog Success: How did you get involved in catalog merchandising?
Benevides: I started at a retailer called Anderson-Little in Massachusetts right out of college. Though it’s no longer in business, it was a great training ground. It was a national company that sold men’s and women’s apparel, and I got to travel overseas as a buyer. Everything was private label in our stores, so it was a great place to learn product development.
I was working as an apparel buyer when I got the call from Sturbridge Yankee. I was intrigued to try something outside of the apparel industry. I had 15 years of merchandise experience and was ready for something new. A catalog seemed like a great place for me to go next. I really feel that merchandising is a calling, and it’s something I can do whether it’s at a retailer or a cataloger.
CS: What’s your role at Sturbridge Yankee Workshop?
Benevides: I’m the lead merchant here, so my role is really determining what merchandise is appropriate for our brand. I’ve always worked for brands. It’s important to know who your customer is and what he or she wants from you. As merchants, we’re responsible for setting the vision and then sticking to that concept.
We stay true to the look, but at the same time continue to update our assortment. We have to maintain a balance between fresh and traditional merchandise. We update our looks to reflect current trends in home fashion, while maintaining our brand identity.