60 Seconds With

“I believe you develop professionally with every decision you make” — Barbara Leonard of Primark

By Business & Finance
21 June 2022
Pictured: Barbara Leonard, Head of Buying, Primark

Barbara Leonard is Head of Buying for Womenswear at Primark. She has worked at Primark for 14 years and became Head of Buying in 2011.

What was your first job?

My first job was working on the sales floor of Dunnes Stores. The experience of working in-store with customers is invaluable for anyone looking for a career in buying or merchandising. It allows you to see things from both a retail and customer perspective, essential when developing out buying strategies, analysing trends and understanding customer’s needs.

What pushed you to pursue a career in this field?

I love the buzz of retail and the constant change of trends. Spotting a commercial opportunity and bringing it to life is something I’ve always been really passionate about. My role continues to evolve as we drive new strategic initiatives around sourcing, introduce new product categories and expand globally. Every day is different and exciting.

What would you regard as your greatest achievement to date?

Working with teams across our business to develop our global macro buying strategy is something I’m very proud of. Our strategy is developed using insight and trends from a variety of sources including customer insight, street fashion from across the globe, catwalks, and social media. Today, our customers want their clothes to last longer, so we focus on trends that will be around for a number of years at a time – not for just one season!

Recently, we launched our spring/summer collection of the Primark Edit. The range is our take on investment pieces made from premium fabrications including linen, satin, leather and Tencel™ blend that will hold their quality season after season. I loved seeing this collection land on the shop floor.   

I take pride in my achievements at work but I’m most proud of my family who support me every day on my career journey. My job involves international travel and having a great support network at home makes that possible. 

Career wise, would you do anything differently?

I think there will always be ‘what ifs’ when it comes to your career, but I value my decisions as experience and learning opportunities. I believe you develop professionally with every decision you make. I’m lucky to be part of a company that offers so many different experiences across all its functions and with that come countless opportunities. I started with Primark 14 years ago as a trainee buyer and I hope to be here for at least 14 more! 

In one sentence, how would you define success?

To me, the mark of success is progressing as a team.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?

Preparation is key. No matter how small that meeting or presentation is, always take some time out to prepare. View every event as an opportunity to make an impact.

How do you motivate yourself and your staff?

I believe in creating an open and transparent work environment where feedback benefits the team. At Primark, we thrive on innovation and I encourage everyone at every stage of their career to bring their ideas to the table.

We celebrate even the smallest successes, both professionally and personally, especially in difficult times.

How do you handle adversity?

Stay positive! Retail is a rollercoaster of ups and downs. I try to understand the source of adversity and focus on solutions. Teamwork is so important in times of adversity. I work with my team to establish what we want to achieve, and to identify the steps we need to take to get there. 

How do you relax? 

The nature of my role means that I’m constantly switched on – watching competition, spotting trends, everything is a source of inspiration. It’s important for me to take time out and switch off. Spending time with my family, travelling, music, film and good food help me to switch off and relax.

What are your aspirations for the future of the business?

I’m lucky to work for a company that is always looking to the future. We are focused on making more sustainable fashion affordable for everyone and will continue to have sustainability at the heart of our decision making.