Sima Kumar Luxury Retail, Purpose...
How To Avoid Feeling Soul Sucked On The Shop Floor
I recently accompanied the Directory team on client meetings to explore new partnerships, new territories and to discuss the luxury retail landscape. At a meeting with one of the most renowned luxury brands in the world, a 15-year veteran shared stories about expectations and reality.
Getting hired at a famous luxury fashion brand is exciting. The onboarding and training process is full of new information, history, legacy and details that can make or break a retail consultants entry into the world of elevated service.
Candidates are always thrilled to be joining Directory, then passing through the rigorous tests & standards luxury brands have to make it through to an actual interview. Those who are successful join an exclusive team that receives intense training. Luxury brands are often legacy brands. Knowing the history of a house and the arc of the house’s evolution is a key component. For some, especially at this famous French fashion house renowned for a historical silhouette to big name successors to now, it’s first ever female designer leading the pack, it’s a deep dive into the past, present and future.
Then reality hits. You’re out of the London HQ training centre and in the environment you’ll be working in daily. Price tags are commonly in the 4 digits so footfall is not of the supermarket the night before Christmas Eve variety. How often have you walked into a luxury retailer and you’re one of a handful of guests, mostly looking unless you can afford £7K on a pair of boots without skipping on rent and tuition and food for months on end…
Staff often look bored, sometimes they are yawning with tears in their eyes. This is undoubtedly a reality of luxury fashion retail.
So how does one find meaning in their work? When I sat down and had lunch with a passionate senior staff member who oversees training and asked this very question, it was these three words that came rolling off her tongue: patience, passion and commitment. It’s true, in this millennial job-hopping culture, the role of retail sales can seem quite lowly. However, what is needed and advised for anyone looking to enter the world of luxury retail and move up the ladder and closer to a role of their long-term dreams is to come to work motivated. Managers & HQ teams keep a keen eye for any retail consultant who is a storyteller. When luxury fashion customers invest £1100 plus on a wallet, there is a myriad of touch points involved. Craftsmanship, design, inspiration, how does it fit into the legacy of the house, is it inspired by something from the archives? These storytelling points all convert the curious consumer into paying customers. Providing a personalised, well-articulated and elevated experience where the client doesn’t feel sticker shock, but rather part of a special club. As e and m-commerce take over the way we shop, luxury still relies on human beings as statistics show luxury customers use online for discovery yet convert offline. The person with the most potential to stand out in this lifecycle is the sales consultant.
Many successful careers have been launched off the retail floor. Fashion mega-mogul Michael Kors attributes his time on the shop floor for knowing his customer. This skill alone moves anyone who is interested in head office jobs into better positioning. Knowing how to craft a customer persona is a key skill within marketing teams for campaigns and digital story-scaping. Who better to collect the DNA of the ideal customer than someone who interfaced with them each day.
My advice to anyone in an entry, mid-to-senior level role is to walk onto the shop floor like you’re the CEO. Your posture will change, the way you handle merchandise will change, the way you approach every interaction with a colleague and customer will change. You will find meaning, you will create a purpose for each day. You will get noticed and you will move up. The world doesn’t owe you anything. This includes the world of retail sales. It’s all about that saying “once you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change”. And I’ve always said, "sayings are sayings for a reason!”
To explore opportunities within the world of luxury fashion retail, contact the team at Directory today. Email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Written by: Sima Kumar.