Rachael Wright is Procurement Business Partner at Primark, a highstreet & international clothing retailer, aiming to provide affordable choices for everyone.
In our latest Big Interview series, Rahim Ali Ahmad spoke with Rachael about her passion for Procurement and what sustainability measures Primark have implemented for a greener future.
How did you get into Procurement?
When I was at school I was really interested in fashion, so really wanted to become a fashion buyer. I guess unlike a lot of Procurement professionals who stumble across Procurement in their career, I actually did a degree in fashion buying, which during the time I really enjoyed the buying element but didn’t necessarily want to work in the fashion industry.
After university, I started a career in the packaging industry which launched my Procurement career within packaging.
I worked for a couple of packaging companies over the space of sort of four years, and then after that, I moved into the food industry and worked for the Centre of England Co-op for 5 years, and then following on from that I worked at Aldi for four years, then funnily enough ended up working at Primark at the beginning of this year back in the fashion industry. It is quite an interesting cycle of how it has come about.
What are you most passionate about when it comes to Procurement?
I think initially when I first started, my passion was certainly cost saving, getting the best deal out of the negotiation, and having a savings tracker.
But now I have been in the industry for over 13 years, I would say that has changed significantly, I am now more interested in developing the Procurement strategy, challenging stakeholders, but most importantly developing and mentoring Procurement people to get the best out of the team.
Being able to help support, guide team members to become more confident and successful within their role is something that I am most passionate about out of everything.
What would you say are the key focus areas in Procurement right now?
I think there are two key areas, the first one is technology and how this can be embraced within the Procurement space.
Anything from looking at more accurate and interactive spend databases, using AI to be able to help with contract negotiations, sourcing new suppliers, or really understanding the biggest administration burden within the team and exploring how technology can reduce or eliminate these.
I think every Procurement team is always under-resourced regardless of how big the team is and whilst additional resource is often required in these circumstances, I think the use of technology can combat this to reduce challenges that are currently being experienced. I would say the second one within Procurement and potentially all businesses, is really people, as I think they are the most important within any team and certainly any company.
It is really important that colleagues have the right tools to be able to complete their job, also that they have clear goals and understand and have awareness of what the strategy is and how they can impact that. Also, giving everyone the opportunity to develop and grow within their Procurement career.
What are your team and organisation doing with regards to sustainable Procurement?
Primark takes sustainability very seriously and has developed a programme called Primark Cares, which basically brings affordability and sustainability together. Because Primark ultimately doesn’t think you should have to choose.
We want to demonstrate that you can have fantastic prices delivered by Primark that don’t sacrifice the planet. This is done by many different initiatives but just to give you a bit of flavour, creating fashionable items that will last longer, that can be worn more, handed down, donated to charity, and recycled but also in addition to this, Primark doesn’t own any of the factories where the products are made so it is really important that they are being really selective around who they partner with, and this is done by the development of the supplier code of conduct which must be met at every single site that is producing Primark products.
Primark Cares because of that, has impacted the decisions made within Procurement to ensure that the specification of service being brought is sustainable where possible.
Working with the right partners which ultimately impacts the decision-making when it comes to Procurement. Some examples of this would be anything from using recycled material for consumables, eliminating waste through the supply chain, eliminating packaging within the products, using renewable energy, utilising optimal routing in logistics or installing LEDs across stores and depots. All of these initiatives support the Primark Cares strategy.
What inspires you as a Procurement leader?
I find people inspiring, whether that be the current team, previous team or people I’ve worked with over the years.
This is where I get my energy from, bouncing ideas around is certainly inspiring, as is supporting, developing and mentoring others. This could be anything from helping a colleague or getting some awareness and aiding recognition of a team member. That is where I really find an inspiring part of the job.
Also, the changes in Procurement have been quite substantial over the last decade with price increases, COVID, Brexit, wars, the list goes on! I think it is really interesting how these significant events have a big impact on Procurement and how that shapes and moulds what Procurement is today.
It will be interesting to see the impact Procurement has over the next ten years. These are quite substantial events that has happened and we are having to adapt all the time to what happens.
What skills do you consider essential to being a good Procurement leader?
Following on from what I just said in terms of changing environments, Procurement can be a very rewarding and exciting environment to embark on because of those changing circumstances across the world, you can’t influence or change them because they are often out of your control.
However, to be successful it is important to be able to adapt to these to ensure that you can deliver the best value, this will change the way you negotiate, it often changes the Procurement strategy, depending on the situation. If you get as much experience in different projects and exposure to different stakeholders early in your career this will allow you to adapt to these changing circumstances because of your experience across a broad range of situations.
What advice would you give someone embarking on a Procurement career?
I think the best advice is to get a lot of exposure to different categories, and different people just to help you develop your experiences across a broader range of categories.
What do you like doing in your spare time?
My priority in my spare time is spending time with my family. I have two little boys so my weekends consist of days out, taking them to football or swimming, we have two dogs so we also love taking them for walks and really just having fun spending time with close friends.
I used to love reading but I don’t seem to have the opportunity to read books anymore! I used to really enjoy Harry Potter books when I was younger.
I am also really into fitness, I love to run but if I can’t get out running, I will do a HIIT workout most days. I think it is really important to maintain a good level of exercise, I really enjoy it, it is good for your mental health and it keeps your stress levels down. It also aids my other passion in life which is eating food!
Anything from Sunday roasts to Korean food, fish, chocolate, desserts I love it all really so I do the exercise so that I can really appreciate the food as well. Those are the highlights of my spare time!
Do you have a personal motto?
Someone said to me years ago “you will always remember how someone made you feel” whether that is something really positive such as that they were fun, encouraging or inspiring, or it could be something really negative such as being miserable, disrespectful or hurtful.
I always want it to be a positive experience when people meet me, particularly in the workplace it is important to develop and make sure that the environment is somewhere where people can feel confident, relaxed, happy and respected, and that is something I try to recreate at work. So yes, that is my motto!