Women Together Now – Five minutes with Rachael Dunniece, Category Trading and Procurement Manager at John Bell & Croyden.

International Women’s Day (March 8) is a global day honuring the social, economic, cultural, and political achievements of women. In celebration of the day, we spoke to some of the inspiring women who work at McKesson UK to find out more about their career, highlights and challenges.

Today we meet Rachael Dunniece, Category Trading and Procurement Manager at John Bell & Croyden.

Tell us more about your job?

As part of my role, I manage all the buying, inventory and stock teams across John Bell & Croyden. This covers everything from choosing the products that we will stock in store and online, negotiating the best price, coordinating brand promotions to support sales and making sure everything is available on our website. As a company we are passionate about the brands we choose, and each one of our 12,000 products have been personally handpicked from the best of the best going through a rigorous selection process. I love discovering new products and being the first retailer to bring exclusive ranges and cult products to the UK. Our customers rely on us to find the ‘best kept secrets’ from across health and beauty worldwide.

What led you to a career in Buying?

Like many people I had the classic Saturday job in Woolworths through Sixth form and University, and when I graduated, I was really unsure what I wanted to do with my career. I am from a family of teachers, and so that was the obvious career, but I was not sure that was for me. I took some time to decide, and lived in different European cities (Berlin, Dublin and Gdansk) before deciding that I wanted to start a career in Buying. I started in Sainsbury’s as an admin assistant to the Senior Produce Buyer, and to say I was not excited about a job in vegetables is an understatement. But once I go into it, I absolutely loved it! The lessons I learnt working with a product that has such a short life and such high volume were invaluable in what I have done since. I also have not been allowed to forget that I once attended a full day Pumpkin Planning Meeting.

What is the most exciting thing about your job? 

There are some really great things about working in Buying, the challenge of finding the next big thing, getting into the details to find the one thing that will deliver improvements in sales and profit. I’d be lying if I said that sampling the products was not a really great part of the job!

What are some of the challenges you have faced in your career?

The last 12 months has been incredibly challenging for everyone in so many ways. From adapting to customers’ needs to learning a whole new way of working from home and introducing this across our teams. Before COVID we were a very traditional ‘in the office’ type of organisation which changed almost overnight to most of our team working at home. Managing and integrating this without any disruption to customers was a challenge but one we rose to. We have introduced new products and services that were needed by our customers such as boosting immunity, COVID testing and more recently vaccinations. We have ensured the pharmacy is COVID safe and all our customers and staff are fully protected, and for those that cannot visit us in person we have made sure all our products are accessible and they still feel they get the same level of John Bell & Croyden customer service without having to leave their homes. I am delighted to say we have pulled together as a team and there is now light at the end of the tunnel for everyone!

Have you encountered any barriers to your success as a female leader? 

I have been really lucky that I had plenty of strong women role models growing up. My mother’s family were very traditional, but my paternal Grandmother and her sister were both Head teachers. My Grandmother had taught in East London in the early 1950’s, and even now aged 91 is still the boss of the family. I have never seen my gender as a reason not to go the leadership roles.

What can the Buying industry do to change this?

In Buying I have found there are often women in leadership roles. The challenge, as in so many working environments, is to understand and accommodate the challenges face specifically by women, especially around childcare. John Bell & Croyden has a strong culture of women in leadership, our Superintendent Pharmacist is a woman and so is our lead buyer, so I am surrounded by lots of incredible women and this is something I am very proud of.

What would you tell other women who are just starting a career in beauty?

Don’t be afraid to make bold decisions if you truly believe it’s the right thing to do even if it goes against the main trend of thought. It’s important not to be afraid to make these types of decisions even if they don’t work out. If things do go wrong simply sit down, work out why it didn’t work and come up with a new plan of action.

What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?  

That everyone makes mistakes, but it is what you do to fix it that counts.

What is something that your colleagues might not necessarily know about you (that you’d be happy to share!)? 

Crafting has been my saviour and since lockdown I have started making patchwork quilts. I really enjoy making them and it’s very relaxing for me (possibly not my partner who has to listen to the sewing machine in the background). It’s a great way of being creative and making homemade presents for loved ones.