Other than vehicles, many automakers offer a variety of licensed consumer products, such as clothing and miniature models. At Mercedes-Benz, personal accessories specialist Jennifer Bright determines which items from Germany we’ll see on Canadian shelves.
Q: How did you get started in this field?
My background is in automotive. My family all worked in the offices at Volkswagen, and I worked in the warehouse for a couple of summers as a student. A friend owned a motorcycle shop in Oshawa and I worked there on accessories. I sold anything from helmets to motocross apparel, all the way up to different pipes for Harleys
and everything in between.
I started at Mercedes-Benz picking and packing the lifestyle items. There was a woman doing my current position and she was a fantastic mentor, and I transitioned into the role.
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Q: How do you determine what to stock?
Our counterparts in Germany develop catalogues full of product, and I order it based on what our market demands and stock it in Canada for our dealers to purchase. I do the analytics on sales numbers on products. We sell directly to the public at some venues, such as auto shows, but most of it we sell to dealers.
I also have products done locally, rather than ordered from Germany. If dealers require items branded with our logo, I have to be sure it’s done properly, such as pens, lanyards, or apparel for events. It’s a co-operative effort between me and the purchasing department.
Q: And what do Canadians buy?
Canada’s unique in that it’s easy to know we’ll use winter accessories. We do quite well with watches, and we have a lot of model car collectors. Model cars do better in Canada than in a lot of markets around the world. In general, the most popular items are the key chains and hats, but at the auto shows, it’s model cars and watches.
People buying at the dealerships are mostly owners, while at the auto shows, it’s people who are aspiring to the brand. They don’t necessarily own a Mercedes-Benz, but they want that star.
Q: What’s the best part of the job?
All the cool merchandise, and getting to see the new items before anyone else does. I’m involved with every department in this building. Perhaps the president needs a model car to give to a guest visiting from another country, or our van department needs something with the Mercedes-Benz logo, or accounting wants to give a model car to an employee who’s leaving after years of service. I also do quite a bit of Formula 1, such as apparel, for the Mercedes-Benz team at an F1 event.
It’s a challenge too, because our collection is so vast. We have anywhere from 600 to 800 (products) in our collection. I have a colleague who assists with marketing and social media, but I do (the collection) by myself.
Q: What did it take to get here?
I had no background in this, just the experience I gathered. Someone clearly thought I had something and was ready to learn, and they gave me the chance. I learn from experts in the business, from training with Mercedes-Benz, and by opening my mouth when I have to. I was always immersed and curious about how to excel, and I had people surrounding me who would give me that opportunity.