museums&MORE Fall 2016
Peer Perspective: Chris Lake, Denver Zoo By Zeke Jennings

I have been involved with some form of retail all of my life. I worked in fashion retail at a department store when I was 15 years old.

Chris Lake

Buyer | Denver Zoo & History Colorado Center


MM: What did you do prior to your current position?

I have been involved with some form of retail all of my life. I worked in fashion retail at a department store when I was 15 years old. I progressed from sales associate, management, assistant buyer, planner, and finally to a buyer. After that, I worked with ARAMARK and entered the wonderful world of retail tourism. I developed a real love for national parks, zoos, and other cultural attractions from around the U.S.

MM: What do you enjoy most about your job?

My favorite thing about retail buying is that you are always doing something different. There are always new products, new ideas, new events, and new stories to share through product. I love putting new product collections together with apparel. At Denver Zoo, I enjoy taking a featured animal and creating a collection theme that is showcased in front of our store and display windows.

MM: What is the biggest challenge? Have you found ways to overcome it?

My biggest challenge is always trying to find the next hot category, item, or fashion trend. I try to spend time observing and analyzing why something sells well or doesn’t. I just don’t look at the numbers but try to review the placement, how it was merchandised, the demographic, and if it was a popular trend outside the zoo. I am always trying to find something new at a gift show or notice a trend if I see the same thing from several different vendors. I also use social media, fashion blogs and magazines as well as shopping retail mainstream stores to see what is trending and to get inspirational ideas on creating new product collections.

MM: What is the best retail advice you have received or could offer?

The best advice in retail buying for new buyers is that buying is not just an art form but a science too. When I tell someone what I do for a living, their first response is usually, “That is what I have always wanted to do, I love to shop.” I love to shop too; however, the analytical skills behind someone having a good eye or being creative is just as essential for overall success. Also, being able to observe and understand your own guest’s preferences over your own personal creative taste. That is a tough one to learn and takes time to develop. There are two kinds of buyers in this world, several buy like they are playing checkers (moment by moment, whatever works at the time, I like it- I buy it) but the successful ones observe, create, plan, and execute their assortment plans like a chess match. (Think) strategic, long-term vision. How do I replicate my successes? How do I minimize my mistakes?

Related: Developing a relevant Made in America product assortment by Chris Lake

Zeke Jennings

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