The Moodie Davitt Report brings you the latest instalment in our popular series Ten Easy Pieces*, in which we get up close and personal with leading travel retail personalities via ten snapshot questions.
Meet Amy Donlon, the vivacious Head of Sales at Buckley London, an “old-school grafter” who had her sights set on making a mark in retailing from a very early age.
1. Where were you born and raised?
I was born and raised in Bradford, West Yorkshire and I lived with my parents and younger brother.
My parents have always been hard workers. My mum, Martine, has been a nurse since leaving school and juggled being a parent with her busy career, and my father, Graham started as a tea boy at a local chemical firm. 40 years on he is now at a senior level, managing the shipping department. Steven, my brother, left school at 16. He also worked his way up in his career and is now successfully running a construction company in Bahrain, which gives me a great excuse to book holidays!
My brother and I learnt a lot from our parents. I believe that’s where we inherited our loyalty and hardworking nature. I developed what some would call my competitive streak from my grandad, who spent week days teaching me how to play snooker and card games. To this day, I always like to be the best I can be in whatever I do.
I go back to Bradford often; if not to visit my family, it will be to partake in a delicious Indian meal. You won’t find a better curry anywhere else. I guarantee it, or would welcome the challenge!
I think it’s important to remember your roots and where you came from. It’s such an important time of your life that helps mould you into the person you are today.
2. When did you realise you had a ‘head for business’?
I think my earliest memory of running a business would be when I was ten. My brother and I, along with other friends on the street, used to organise a regular stall, selling anything we could get our hands on, plus mass producing perfume (water and rose petals). It was a serious business for us then.
In all honesty, my ambition and drive has always been a part of me. I used to buy costume jewellery from China, at around the age of 14, and I would sell it to school friends or through my eBay shop. I’ve wanted to make money for as long as I can remember.
In terms of grades at school I did well, but I was never one of the highest achievers and university was never in my plans. I just wanted to get out there and work and experience things. My brother was the same; we are old-school grafters.
I left school at 18, after finishing my A Levels, and started working for Stylo Barratts Shoes as Junior Stock Controller. That was my first taste of the retail industry and working in an office environment.
I knew then that I wanted to be in the fashion industry and I wanted to work with a product I enjoyed.
3. Two years later, ‘time out,’ and something completely different, right?
I was with Stylo for a few years and progressed quickly. But, at that point, I wanted a career and I wanted to make a difference. I was still young and needed to do something spontaneous. So, I travelled alone to Malia on the Greek island of Crete and worked there for a summer. The following year I decided to try somewhere different so I went to Kos, where I tried my hand at public relations.
My time abroad helped me gain so much more confidence. And it gave me the travel bug.
When I returned to the UK, my parents had moved out of the city into a beautiful village on the outskirts of Bradford called Haworth. Moving to Haworth made me think about the future and what I wanted out of life. I had seen how hard my parents had worked and where it had brought us; I wanted that life too. It was about finding the right role for me.
4. How did you get involved with Buckley London?
When I returned from Greece, I knew I wanted to get into retail and a fashion-driven industry. Buckley London was advertising for a House of Fraser Account Manager and, hey, the door opened.
It was a great start to my career, as I quickly started to understand the mechanics of the business, which became a great platform to lead me onto sales. I began my journey in sales about three and a half years ago. It was a nervous step in my career, but one I wouldn’t change.
It’s been non-stop. Now I have worked with Buckley London for ten years and it still excites me. The best bit about sales is meeting new people and continuously building new relationships with people all over the world.
5. Let’s focus on Buckley London in travel retail. Are inflight sales the ‘be-all and end-all’?
Buckley London has been very successful in travel retail; we have some fantastic partnerships and the brand continues to grow globally.
The inflight sector in particular is a big part of our business, but admittedly a challenging one. When you are a manufacturer of such beautiful, sparkling jewellery, it’s extremely hard to get that across on one picture. People like to touch and feel the product. Also, logistically there are various challenges; for example, cart loading quantities and returns.
I would say it’s possibly one of the hardest sectors to manage, which is why I keep the inflight division separate to the other accounts and ensure we have a team that truly understands these challenges and how to overcome them. Despite that, there are lots of positives and we consider inflight to be a very important part of the business.
We are driving our focus towards value sets and, as the inflight sector moves more digital, we are already preparing short videos and 360-degrees shots of our products which we are confident will help drive sales. It’s important in this industry that we all work together.
6. Buckley London puts a lot of emphasis on its British heritage… how important is that in a very competitive jewellery channel?
Buckley London is very proud of its strong British heritage and continues to take inspiration from the British landscape in all its designs. It is a consistent theme in our collections, which are given names that link with British places and people. I feel that our British heritage gives us a point of difference and helps to make the brand memorable in the mind of the consumer, especially in such a tough, competitive market.
I have also found that international consumers tend to view British items favourably, therefore having a strong British brand has had a positive influence on our brand growth and sales. Some of our longstanding best-selling pieces include our London charm bracelet and Royal Celebration ring, inspired by Kate Middleton’s engagement ring, which was originally worn by Princess Diana.
Charitable giving also plays a big part in British heritage and the Buckley London company ethos. We support many charities close to home, both on a national and local level. Buckley London became one of the first jewellery brands to work in close partnership with the Royal British Legion and The Poppy Collection and has been immensely popular. The pieces are worn by high profile individuals such as the Duchess of Cambridge, Angelina Jolie, Jude Law, Lady Gaga and the poppies have raised millions of pounds for the charity.
On the back of the poppy success, we worked with Marie Curie and created a range of brooches using the daffodil emblem. Buckley London has also developed bespoke charitable pins for The Duke of York Community Initiative and Forget Me Not Children’s Hospice, as well as producing beautiful Yorkshire Rose pins which have been donated to a number of local Yorkshire charities.
Buckley London Founder Adrian Buckley set up his own charity, the Adrian Buckley Charitable Trust, in 2012. The trust aims to help the less fortunate and has already funded a number of projects in Uganda. The first orphanage, named the Kyasira Home of Hope, opened in 2013 and a new school in Kyasira, to help children in the area to receive an education, opened in 2016.
It makes me extremely proud to be a part of such a charitable company.
7. Is there an Amy Donlon motto?
Absolutely: “Keep business simple”. People want to do business with good, honest people and we all want to make a bit of money along the way. So, I guess what I’m saying is be nice and not too greedy!
I’m lucky. I have the pleasure of selling stunning jewellery which buyers like and want to stock. But, I also know, as a company, it’s important to us that we accommodate and support our customers anyway we can, which helps keep our relationships strong. I have an excellent team of account managers who work extremely hard and value every customer they work with, big or small. That’s why attending the trade shows are important to us, so we can keep up that face-to-face contact and work with our customers to ensure Buckley London is the best brand it can be.
8. Your “head for business” has led to other ventures hasn’t it?
It has. I started property development eight years ago and I have just completed my third home. It’s challenging, especially when you are living on a building site, but the results are so rewarding. I get tradesmen in to do the bigger jobs but I always do the plans and a lot of the sourcing to ensure I get the best prices for the job.
My third project was on a beautiful home in Bramhope, North Leeds, which I completed a few months back. It is a small, quaint village 20 minutes from the city centre but located in the beautiful countryside. It feels like home, but I already have itchy feet to start another!
I am always looking for the next challenge.
My other venture began when I was 24, when I started my own hair enhancement company. I was searching for this service one day and quickly realised that there was an abundance of salons offering this facility but no mobile alternatives. It got me thinking. If I searched for this, how many others are there in the market? And how big was that demand? I saw a gap in the market and booked on a training course.
Approximately seven years on, I had a very successful business which I ran alongside my work at Buckley London. The hours were long. I would leave work at 5pm and drive straight to a client’s house. I travelled all over Yorkshire, so quite often I would get in at 9 or 10pm.
I believe that business gave me a taste for sales. It came naturally to me; talking about something I love and feel passionate about. I enjoyed making a difference and seeing a smile on somebody’s face.
I truthfully couldn’t be in sales if I didn’t believe in what I was selling and I can honestly say that I am lucky to work with such amazing products and a fantastic group of people here at Buckley London. We are like a small family.
9. Travel retail… you love the retail but what about the travel?
My love of travel developed after my brother moved to Bahrain ten years ago. I visit him twice a year and that has proven very good for my career, as it was through those visits that I started to understand the market in the Middle East and further abroad.
I do a lot of travel which has increased over the past year, since becoming Head of Sales. A significant part is attending travel retail shows, which provide great platforms to meet your customers from all over the world. Nothing beats building a relationship better than having face-to-face meetings. It keeps the job interesting and I get to meet so many wonderful people along the way.
However, as much as I enjoy the travel element, England will always be home and I look forward to getting back and enjoying my home comforts, which usually includes a nice cup of Yorkshire tea and my bath.
10. ‘Amy time’. If you were offered a weekend right now to do your favourite things, what would you do?
Depending on the time of year (and the weather, of course) I would either walk to a good beer garden and enjoy the sun, or seek out a warm, crackling fire in a picturesque country pub.
Work is quite fast paced, so it’s always nice to wind down, whether that be getting out in the countryside or going to a spa with candles and enjoying the relaxing environment.
Striking a work/life balance is so important. I force myself to switch off and make that much-needed ‘me’ time. That’s the reason I can put 100% into my work.
I guess my life motto is rather like my work motto: Keep it simple, keep it manageable…
*PREVIOUSLY FEATURED TEN EASY PIECES PERSONALITIES INCLUDE: