How did you break into buying?
I worked as an administrator in the department of Mike Goulthorp, who is now chief general manager in the commercial division.  At that time, he was head of buying for meat and poultry and one day he asked me if I would like to “have a go” at buying.  The Co-operative Group is very good if you show willing – it will give you a chance.  After training, I began work as a junior meat and poultry buyer in 1995.

What recent issues have affected your business?
Hibernia Foods going into receivership last October obviously had an impact. It held the UK licence to make Sara Lee products. Sara Lee, which represented our key branded offer in frozen confectionery, was heavily promoted in our stores. These promotions had to be pulled and we had to make sure that alternative lines were in place. Every day low pricing is always a concern. The big four multiples are all battling for market share and we will feel the effect of that. Innovation, adding value to ranges, is essential.

What do you think about the high churn rate of buying staff?
Whether it continues depends on individual retailers. There does need to be an element of consistency in the buying function. If someone works in a category for three years, it gives them a chance to be effective – if they’re only there for six months, I don’t understand how they can manage.

What are you currently working on?
We’re now working on our ranges for Christmas. Confectionery is key to getting Christmas right. We’re looking at new product development for our Truly Irresistible ice cream range and we’re also recruiting more regional ice cream suppliers.