When most people go shopping, they look for things to buy for themselves. When Hayley Buonodono goes shopping, she looks for things to buy for the store.
“I used to tell my mom every time we’d walk into T.J.Maxx or Marshalls, ‘I’m going to buy for them.’ I really wanted to be a buyer,” says Buonodono, who has known since middle school that she wants to be the one who identifies trends and haggles with suppliers to purchase the products that retailers sell to consumers.
The senior business administration major from Amesbury took a giant step toward her dream job when she was hired as a merchandising co-op for TJX, the parent company of retail chains such as T.J.Maxx, Marshalls and HomeGoods.
“It’s really exciting to go into the stores and see everything set up and be able to say, ‘I shipped that!’” Buonodono said during a break at the company’s sprawling corporate office complex in Framingham, where she was just weeks away from completing her six-month co-op position in the planning and allocation department. “I love that you can feel the product and see what you’re shipping. It’s very tangible. It’s just a really cool feeling.”
As an allocation analyst, Buonodono was responsible for “moderate brands” of handbags sold in more than 1,200 T.J.Maxx stores across the country. By analyzing data and identifying trends, Buonodono advised buyers and created shipping strategies to maximize sales.
“Being able to work with the buyers as closely as I do is incredible, since this is what I want to do,” says Buonodono, who admittedly didn’t know much about handbags coming into the position. “Honestly, I didn’t even know what a satchel was.”
But before she knew it, Buonodono was part of a team that was shipping up to $23 million in handbags to stores each week.
“It can be nerve-racking with the amount of money that’s at stake, but I’ve had so much training here that I’m so grateful for,” says Buonodono, who spent her first month shadowing employees before taking part in five weeks of on-the-job training.
Buonodono, whose brother Tim is a 2017 mechanical engineering alum, is the first UMass Lowell student to land a co-op at TJX through the university’s Professional Cooperative Education.
She says the marketing and data analytics courses she took in the Manning School of Business gave her a good foundation for the job, which has required “attention to detail, analyzing data, working in the gray and taking risks.”
How did Buonodono know at such a young age that she wanted to be a buyer? Her mom Jaylene owns Trendsetters Boutique in Amesbury, which sells new and consigned clothing and accessories. When Buonodono was in high school, she started attending trade shows with her mom.
“I loved learning about negotiating and helping her make buys,” says Buonodono, who discovered she had a knack for haggling. “I’d say, ‘You can get a better deal. Let me negotiate.’ It’s fun.”
That early introduction to the business, combined with part-time retail jobs and her co-op at TJX, has Buonodono positioned for big things once she completes her business degree (with a concentration in marketing).
“My co-op has been an amazing experience. I don’t want to leave,” Buonodono says.
Turns out, she doesn’t have to leave. At the end of her co-op, Buonodono was offered a full-time job at TJX. She planned to start in the fall while completing her degree.