Fast Track: A-Z of Employers - Jigsaw

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The Independent Culture
Age: 26

History: Began with a store in Hampstead, one of the posher parts of London, in the early Seventies. It has 44 shops in the UK, two in Europe and 19 in Japan. The range was principally for women until 1993, when director Chris Bailey launched a men's section. Two years ago, a children's department was added. The company's policy - and success - has been to bridge high-street fashion and the catwalk by "creating affordable fashionable clothes which are sold in individual, stylish surroundings".

Address: Head office is in Kew Gardens, London.

Ambience: The company is still small and privately owned. This makes the atmosphere somewhat cosy, compared to the rather impersonal company culture of some multinationals. Informality is valued, but professionalism is a buzzword. Staff are even given seasonal incentives to ensure that the atmosphere in shops and head office remains "open and amiable".

Vital statistics: More than 70 people work at head office, with 550 employees in total and a turnover of around pounds 70m per annum. Departments include design, production, accounts, distribution and retail. There are two collections per year, with knitwear produced mostly in the Far East and tailored garments in the UK. Designers work closely with store managers.

Lifestyle: Trainees are based mostly at Kew, with secondments to regional stores. Employees are encouraged to mix socially, and the company produces a newsletter which highlights one store each quarter, with staff talking about the best places to visit in town and offering to take visiting colleagues out and about. There is also a Christmas party in Soho's Groucho Club every year, and staff can book a holiday break in the company's four-bedroom cottage in Bath.

Easy to get into? Last year saw the company's first venture into specific graduate recruitment. Four graduates were put on a pilot management scheme; this year's intake is a little larger, but the company wants to keep an emphasis on the individual, rather than recruiting in quantity. Intelligence, common sense and a feeling for style and fun are necessary for applicants. Those shortlisted attend an assessment centre to be tested for ability to work in teams but also to think creatively in an individual way.

Glittering alumni: Former employee Maureen Docherty now runs Egg, an exclusive boutique in Knightsbridge, while menswear director Chris Bailey was rated by magazines FHM and iD as one of the 50 most influential people in men's fashion today.

Pay: Graduate starting salaries are "competitive" (around pounds 16,000), but the real perk with working for Jigsaw is the clothing allowance and discounts, together with a range of benefits: pension, life assurance, performance-based incentives, paid travel and a bonus of pounds 500 for completing the company's management development scheme.

Training: Head office and store managers collaborate to monitor the performance of graduate recruits, who can be promoted at any time, depending on ability. Individuals are assessed for strengths and development needs, with training tailored correspondingly. However, there is more of an emphasis on developing retail managers: there has not been a vacancy in the design department for the past 18 months.

Facilities: Shops have staff rooms offering tea and coffee. At head office, lunch is cooked for everyone in the open-plan office. There's also a discount on membership of a local gym.

Who's the boss? Managing director is John Robinson, who started the business at the age of 25. Chris Bailey, the menswear supremo, started at 17 as a design room assistant, and has worked for the company for around 12 years.