Caterina Ercoli, Head of Buying at Level Shoes, on taking a brave, fierce and commercially astute approach to buying.

What do the first 30 minutes of your day look like, your morning routine?

I am an early bird. An Italian espresso is a good starting point. I am always connected with the rest of the world with many different time zones and when I wake up, I need to check and reply to all messages… and then I am ready for my morning workout routine.

How have your previous roles set you up for working in the fast-paced world of e-commerce?

My previous role was an important milestone in my career. I was a Buying Director for 10 years in one of the most important omnichannel retailers within the fashion industry, which scouts talents and develops new brands. This experience is part of my DNA and buying strategy. Level Shoes as the own brand of Chalhoub Group reflects my strategy for developing new brands in the region. It is important to follow the trends to adapt to the needs of the market, but we always need to anticipate and educate our consumers and community.

Which brands drive sales season after season?

Our brand portfolio consists of more than 280 brands across men, women, and kids. We have seen great momentum for well-known fashion houses such as Dolce&Gabbana, Salvatore Ferragamo, and Versace, etc. As well as Niche brands, like Rick Owens and Amiri that are trending now. For women, we have Rene Caovilla, Amina Muaddi, Malone Souliers, Mach & Mach and Aquazarra leading in the designer category but again brands like Le Silla and The Attico are very much center of attraction.

What do you look for in a new brand to bring them on board?

Innovation, creativity, and exclusivity, we always look for brands that embody the same values we have, which helps in growing more long-term partnerships. We also look for a good balance between price and quality.

How challenging was refining the buy when you joined and how has it evolved?

I love challenges and I can describe myself as a fearless dreamer. My buying team consists of women with a deep knowledge of the Middle Eastern market who have been part of the Level Shoes team prior, it wasn’t much of a challenge rather than taking more risks within the strategy. We introduced more than 60 new brands, developed a stronger partnership with each of them, which represents our brand vision moving forward in catering to the market.

How do you balance the creative and commercial sides of the business and do you feel more drawn to one than the other?

I believe that with my expertise, the team in the buying world and with the identity of Level Shoes, we can still be creative while also supporting the commercial side of the business. I hope to see this approach in the fashion industry as a whole, otherwise, we will always see the copy and paste of the same collections season after season.

What would your advice be to others in the luxury industry and what great advice was imparted to you on your journey?

Support new talents and build a long-term partnerships with brands, even when the brand is not ahead of the curve. You never know what will happen in the future… and time in the fashion industry runs very fast.

What have been the biggest challenges to date and how did you overcome them?

One of the biggest challenges in the industry was during COVID-19. On March 8, 2020, my life changed with COVID-19 negatively impacting the fashion system. My advice is to never panic but to always be consistent, flexible and agile.

How have you found social media in terms of supporting brand growth?

Social media is essential, and it is key to have a tailored strategy for every social media channel which caters to every consumer however they would like to connect. That way we can always ensure that the communication is tailored and the brand messaging is clear.

How do you approach scaling without compromising on quality?

Each brand has a different audience. I believe it is not possible to have high-quality and competitive pricing. Therefore, we always ensure we have a wide offering for everyone to enjoy.

What advice would you give to your younger self?

Always believe in yourself and be fearless.

This is The Pioneer Issue – what does this mean to you?

Firstly, thank you for having me. As a leader in the fashion industry, I feel like a pioneer in discovering new brands and building long terms partnerships with all of them. I hope to see many women pioneers like me in the future, leading by my example.

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