Balance of know-how and current trends

Martin van Staden - national logistics manager of Tile Africa.

Martin van Staden - national logistics manager of Tile Africa.

lWhat is the most interesting aspect of your job?

Meeting suppliers internationally and making decisions on product ranges that will set Tile Africa apart from the rest of the market.

l What did you do before you became a buyer for Tile Africa?

I worked my way up from an assistant store manager, where I gained knowledge and experience about the tiling industry and the factors that play a role in the procurement of tiles.

l Do you have to travel for your job?

Yes, I travel extensively locally and was privileged to travel to China and Italy. A highlight was attending the biggest ceramic trade show in Cersaie, Italy.

l Do your own tastes come into play?

Personal taste can't influence your decisions. The art is to follow international trends and meet the demands of your target market.

l Are your tiles sourced locally or internationally?

To ensure a balanced product offering in terms of style, fashion and pricing, products are sourced locally and internationally.

l What do you do with tiles that are not bought?

There is a home for every tile. We would typically look at our in-store merchandising on slower movers with a strategy to change the look of the lifestyle display. Very often the tile just needs to be displayed with the right complimentary accessories.

l What has been your worst experience as a buyer?

Some large import orders were delayed due to strikes in Brazil. But Tile Africa's "can do" culture turned this challenge into an opportunity. This experience has left us with lifelong relationships with suppliers we did not know at the time.

l What type of personality is needed to be a buyer for Tile Africa?

One must firstly have a good understanding of your market, and then a feel for quality products to select a balanced range.

A successful buyer surrounds himself with market researchers, fashion gurus and highly qualified technical experts. These individuals and their fields of expertise ensure the right decision making process.

l What are the perks of your job?

I enjoy travelling around the world and, of course, the look of satisfaction on a client's face when they have completed their home improvement project is absolutely priceless.

l What is the worst part of your job?

To be true, to the Tile Africa brand means that I only procure the best quality products. That sometimes means that I have to disappoint a supplier by discontinuing certain ranges that don't comply with our standards.

l How influenced are you by international trends ?

International trends are important since we are after all in the fashion industry.

l What training goes into your work as a buyer?

I can't understate the importance of technically understanding your product ranges - and then you need to be insightful about the market trends.

l Do you have tips for someone who wants to refurbish their home?

Do your homework and source the right tiles for the space. Natural products like slate, stone and travertine are great for outside areas. High traffic areas like kitchens and hallways need suitably graded tiles.