Lisa Rutherford, 37, is gift food and seasonal events buyer at John Lewis. She lives in East Barnet, Hertfordshire, with her parents, her husband, Paul, and their daughter, Amelia, three
"People always ask if I get sick of Christmas. The answer’s no. There’s nothing I look forward to more than 1 October each year, when John Lewis finally launches its festive range. As a buyer for seasonal events, I’m responsible for sourcing new Christmas products from as far away as China, and seeing the process through until they’re on the shop floor ready for customers to buy. It’s fair to say I’m busy at this time of year. We work one year ahead – I’m concentrating on Christmas 2013 now – but as we’re also in the midst of ‘peak trading’ time for 2012 making things doubly hectic.
I wake up about 5.15am to get into the office early to kick-start my day. I wear casual clothes – jeans and a shirt. If I’m carting Christmas trees round I can easily get covered in dirt. I’ll always wear a pair of heels though to give a boost to my 5ft 3in frame. If Amelia’s asleep, I’ll be up and out after a quick bowl of cereal, but if she’s up I can never resist the urge to read her a quick story before catching the train to our HQ at London Victoria.
It’s hard leaving Amelia, but I know she’ll be well looked after by my mum and dad, who we asked to move in when I gave birth. It was the ideal way to maintain our busy lifestyle – my husband also works at John Lewis – but not deprive Amelia of a family upbringing. So we all live in our big renovated house, which has two lounges and bedrooms for everyone!
The first thing I do when I get to the office at 7.30am is grab a coffee and check the previous day’s sales figures. This year, our main theme is Winter Wonderland, focusing on snow, how cold it is outside, and how nice it is to be cosy inside. But we also have some more unusual concepts, such as a retro American theme and a Japanese Christmas, with festively decorated bonsai trees.
I’m based in Victoria, but I’m very mobile. Mornings can be spent out at showrooms or visiting our high-street stores, where I’ll check the quality of our stock and make sure everything looks as good as it should on the shop floor. About seven times a year I travel abroad to source products. As well as shorter trips to suppliers in Holland and the Czech Republic (the best place for hand-blown glass baubles), I do one annual trip to the Far East – Hong Kong, China and Taiwan – where I’ll spend two weeks sourcing our Christmas range. I’ll buy tree decorations, Christmas lighting, trees, wreaths, garlands and home accessories, which will then be shipped back to the UK for the following year’s Christmas.
The hardest thing about travelling is leaving Amelia. But I love my job, so I have to cope with it, and I make sure to take a week off when I return so I can spend it all at home with her. If I’m in the office, lunch will be a sandwich at my desk before starting the afternoon’s work – anything from working with our merchandising team on numbers analysis to meeting a client to see their new products. This often involves chocolate tasting – a blessing and a curse!
People say I must have the best-dressed Christmas tree. I used to be precious about our decorations until we had Amelia, but things can get so messy now I’ve had to let go. This year, we’ll have two trees, one with the decorations Paul and I have picked up on our travels (my favourite is Father Christmas on a gondola we got in Venice – it gets us talking about our holiday), and the other will have a ‘Winter Wonderland’ theme!
My working day finishes at 6pm, when I’ll head home and go upstairs to be greeted by a very excitable Amelia in her pyjamas. I’ll read her a bedtime story before sitting down to something like a curry with the rest of the family, courtesy of my dad, the self-appointed house chef. I like being surrounded by lots of people – this Christmas there will be 14 of us at dinner, which I’ll cook with Mum. I’m really excited, as is Amelia, as she’s just beginning to understand what Christmas is all about. After dinner I’ll catch up on some emails before putting my feet up in front of the telly for an hour or so, before heading to bed at about 11pm."