Meet Onthatile Kgadiete

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In recent years, retail merchandising has grown to be quite a coveted career. Due to its nature, as a retail merchandiser one needs to exercise a certain level of creative reign, coupled with business acumen and strong market trend analysis. Below, Thati Kgadiete takes us through her journey on how she forged a formidable career as an accessories buyer for the highly-regarded Woolworths…

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Thati Kgadiete – Picture by Mpumelelo Macu ( Basemnt Pixels )

Full name: Onthatile Kgadiete

Age: 27 years
Current title/company: Buyer: Toiletry Bags and Accessories, Woolworths
Educational background: Bachelor of Social Science, University of Cape Town
Current city: Cape Town

What was your first job out of college and how did you land it?

I worked at a call centre when I was a student and once I completed my degree I was offered an opportunity as a marketing intern at Woolworths.

Could you take us through the journey that got you into your current role?
While I was a marketing intern, I was approached to cover for someone who had gone on maternity leave as a design co-ordinator. This is where my love affair with retail began, I was approached by various groups to train as a buyer, and eventually I chose the beauty department as I believe it is a specialist commodity and service led. I then trained for 18 months to eventually become a buyer.

You are currently a Bags and Beauty Accessories buyer for Woolworths – a company known for its beautiful products, innovation and solid business acumen. Could you describe the relationship between business, aesthetics and creativity?
Ultimately, we are merchants and we are there to run a business, to reach certain targets and to grow whatever category you have been given – it is important not to lose sight of that. We also have to create a product that is desirable and beautiful that the customer is willing to pay for. This is the fun part.

How do you merge these three aspects to ensure success in your career?

When you are able to marry innovation and quality with value – that is the key to success. This is a lesson I learned. And when I look at any industry that is the best practice to obtain competitive advantage. If you can find something that people need and find a way of making it aesthetically attractive, then convince your customer that the price fits the product, you are sure to make money.

How did you ultimately determine the type of career you were most passionate about?
I love to shop and I love fashion and I have always followed trends. I am also commercially minded so I knew that this was my gift when it all came naturally to me. It wasn’t too hard. Granted, I put in hectic hours weekly, but the outcome is always better than I expect. My job doesn’t feel like a “job”, I actually enjoy it.

For those who aren’t familiar with retail merchandising, what does your job entail?
I procure a range of products and manage the cycle from design and product concept right until fulfillment (when it reaches the shelf). We develop our own products, so there is a lot of the design element – which I love. We work as a team of planners, buyers, designers and technologists to ensure that the customer gets the best product, at the best price and at the right time.

What invaluable skills have you learned in this role?
I have learned to be a really gifted negotiator, I have learned a lot about economics (the hardest subject I took in varsity, but that and Statistics have turned out to be the subjects I refer back to most). I have learned a lot about the relationship between customer behaviour and price elasticity. I suppose these are skills I will take with me forever.

What have been the biggest challenges or obstacles you’ve faced in your career as a buyer and how were you able to overcome them?
I once purchased a ‘dog’ – which was an item that just doesn’t sell, even when I reduced the price. I believed in it and it didn’t work, I learned that mistakes happen and sometimes people may just not respond to what I think is amazing, it is not a reflection of my awesomeness, or lack thereof, but it is a humbling experience that all buyers go through.

What is a typical work day like for you?
No two days are the same. I meet with suppliers and negotiate costs, I go to trend briefings, I liaise with marketing to ensure that my product gets some face time. I spend some time shopping (locally and abroad). I present at strategy and product reviews. There are lots of numbers and a lot of range construction. I enjoy the rush, the energy and the dynamic environment I work in.

What is most fulfilling about being a Beauty buyer?
It’s always a treat to see someone using my products, I feel that my job isn’t in vain and that I have achieved my business strategy.

Advice for aspiring retail buyers?
Get a fashion related degree, keep informed on trends, work hard and apply for internships with retailers.


Morning or Night?


If you could have lunch with any woman, who would it be and what would you order?

Sheryl Sandberg (COO of Facebook) and I would order a roasted veggie salad

I wish I knew how to… Be balanced

African women are…Powerful and filled with untapped potential

South Africa is… Beautiful, alive with possibility. It is home.

Worst money mistake…Credit: just cause it’s offered, doesn’t mean you should take it!

Best InvestmentProperty

Motivation in 3 words: I am worthy

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