Home Lifestyle Former David Jones fashion boss Donna Player says leaving the department store was ‘a gift’

Former David Jones fashion boss Donna Player says leaving the department store was ‘a gift’

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Former David Jones fashion boss Donna Player is back with her “mob” and couldn’t be happier.

Player, considered one of the most powerful women in Australian fashion retail, abruptly left her role as group merchandise executive during a senior management shake up by the department store’s South African owner, Woolworths, last year.

Former David Jones fashion boss Donna Player says leaving the department store was 'a gift'
Former David Jones fashion boss Donna Player has joined successful online shopping platform The Iconic. 

She spent her six months of “gardening leave” discovering Tasmania, reading about Mark Zuckerberg, becoming a consultant to Camilla Franks’ kaftan brand and taking a macro look at the fashion industry. Now she is back as an independent board member and adviser to the online shopping site The Iconic.

“It was a gift. I had time to take a breath and really see where the industry is going, and it’s going online,” she said.

Happy to be away from the pale, stale and male scene of traditional retail, Player has been invigorated by her new gig with fashion’s wunderkind.

“There is so much blue sky here and in the online space. It’s a different vibe, it’s really energetic. It’s energetic to be there, it’s a group of people who just believe anything is possible,” she said.

“There are different finance and accounting terms but it’s all about the same thing. It’s about sales and it’s about profit. You have to have the brands that are wanted and make it easy for him or her to buy, but this is a business that is in real growth.”

Since launching in 2011, The Iconic has increased its customer base and shopping cart averages more than fivefold. It now fulfils about 50,000 daily orders and attracts about 10 million visitors each month while adding 200 new products to the site every day. There are now 60,000 products from 1000 brands available on the portal.

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Player credits the site’s three-hour delivery service to Sydney customers and next-day delivery to other capital cities as a cornerstone of the business’ fast success.

A new premium offering will expand in the lead up to Christmas thanks to Player’s help.

Chief executive Patrick Schmidt, the 37-year-old former boss of Groupon Australia, said the range would add 150 new brands to the site’s high-end offering and the majority will be Australian designers. That’s where Player’s valuable little black book will come in handy, considering she has negotiated with nearly every local designer and brand throughout a 30-year career that has included stints at Grace Bros and Big W.

“She is a local sounding board, all of our investors are from overseas so it’s good to have her knowledge readily available,” Schmidt said.

“Donna’s role is not a very traditional one. It’s not where you only attend quarterly board meetings to discuss governance and compliance, this is much more about rolling up your sleeves and working with the business.”

It’s a value that Schmidt practises as well as preaches.

During busy periods, together with members of his 300 staff, he abandons his standing desk at the company’s inner city headquarters and helps fill and pack orders out at the company’s Chullora warehouse.

“If there’s any angry customer, I usually call them,” he said.

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