Peer Perspective: Kate Bailey, John Ball Zoo
Assistant Retail Manager, John Ball Zoo
Grand Rapids, Michigan
Kate Bailey is still somewhat of a newbie to the industry, albeit one that has already learned the value of smart buying, conservation and community service.
What attracted you to specialty retail at the zoo?
What first attracted me to John Ball Zoo was all that they do for conservation of wildlife and our environment. When I realized I could contribute to that by working in the retail department, I was hooked. I love finding new conservation vendors and products that I can then share with our guests, leaving them with a more tangible message to take home. Once I became more involved and started moving up in my department I decided to pursue a career as a buyer.
What has been the most important thing you’ve learned on the job thus far?
The most important thing that I have learned so far is how important networking is. I’ve been fortunate enough to have a great mentor as my boss, Theresa Danneffel, who has opened so many doors for me. Networking with other buyers in ZAG and getting to know our vendors helps me make more informed buying decisions. If we want to try out a new product, I know I can find someone who has already brought it in. Likewise, close relationships with vendors makes for easier negotiation and an inside track on what’s coming next.
What are the biggest factors the team at JBZ considers when looking at a new line?
When looking at a new line we consider how trendy it is and what demographic group it will target. Analyzing these factors helps us determine if the line is worth bringing in. Moreover, we consider how saturated the market is with the line or similar products. One example is how we almost brought in sequence pillows with animal faces because of the sequence trend. After looking at the cost and knowing that these can be found in nearly everywhere, we decided against it since we would be unable to compete with big store prices. Instead we purchased sequence plush snakes that have been doing rather well for us with school groups.
What are you passionate about outside of work?
When I am not working, I try to be outdoors. I’m very lucky to live in a state as beautiful as Michigan where I can hike on trails that take me to Lake Michigan or hammock next to sand dunes. Recently I’ve started to travel for leisure more often and look forward to my upcoming trips during our offseason. I enjoy Grand Rapids’ hockey and baseball teams and try to attend as many games as I can. Giving back to the community is also extremely important to me, so I try to volunteer when the opportunity arises. Later this month, I am helping JBZ clean the highway we adopted.