Wednesday, April 27, 2016

sample the goods, sample the service

I've worked in luxury retail for nearly 18 years now.  A friend was asking me if I thought I'd only ever work in luxury.  And my first response was plain and simple: anything can be luxury.  So my short answer: yes. 

Consider this: with the right attitude, approach, and communication, every job can be luxurious. 

The attitude: you must always convey a "can-do" tone with your clients.  The more service you deliver, the more time and resources you invest, the relationship becomes more meaningful and more valuable.  Asking open ended questions will determine not only the immediate needs of your clients, but help you learn valuable details about their life and long term goals.  In luxury retail especially, personal details and knowledge is more than power.  They lead to money in the bank. 

Your approach must be consistent.  You must warmly welcome your clients, quickly determine their needs and wants, and start achieving those goals.  Customers don't buy shovels because they want a shovel; customers buy shovels because they need to get digging.  The quicker you respond, the more time you save the clients, and thus, the most loyalty you establish.  Time is everything, no matter what demographic you may be categorized.

Communication is everything.  What does your uniform or clothing say about your personality and salesmanship?  Are you trendy, polished, and professional?  Or did you just roll out of bed and last launder your wardrobe when Tony Blair was at the helm of the kingdom?  Speak confidently and competently; know as much as possible about the goods and services on offer, what you can do for your clients, and how to achieve their goals quickly and discretely.  When you act with purpose, you'll be viewed more seriously and more favorably.  Ultimately, you should be committed to driving the business and mastering your craft.  And when you do, you'll exceed your own goals and do so with an added dash of style + class.
 In doing so, you'll want to offer your clients either a sample of the goods or services you wish to sell.  Recently I was visiting my favorite Nordstrom store in Nashville with a friend.  While we were browsing the cosmetics and skincare department, an associate quickly and casually greeted us, offered herself for assistance if needed, and told us she'd check back with us.  She was unobtrusive and quite lovely.  A few moments later, upon reapproach,  the conversation turned to new products on offer.  Candy, the associate, asked if we had ever heard of the brand Diptyque.  I had indicated that I had a favorite candle, but that's all I really knew of the brand.  Her simple question turned into the biggest smile.  Apparently the brand wanted to remove their skincare range from the store, but Candy was so excited and had built a loyal customer base for the products, that they were able to keep the extended range.  And since I had never tried the skincare before, she wanted to offer me a few samples.  After a moment away, I was presented with the loveliest little bag of a handful of samples, her business card, and the invitation to follow up and share my thoughts on the products.

I'm so impressed.  Not only was Candy excited about her products, but she knew exactly how to introduce the brand.  And with her fabulous presentation, she not only signaled to me that the products were really wonderful, but she signaled to me that she had established a great relationship with the brand's executives, she was willing to go above and beyond for her customers, and the service she could provide me would be top notch as well. 

Candy could have very easily pointed to a few "tester" products on the shelf and told us to take a look.  But instead, by offering a few samples in a small bag with her business card, and asking the right amount of questions, she created a solid relationship. 

We can all take a few tips from Candy.  If you work at a supermarket, offer to push the groceries out to your client's car.  It'll give you a moment to grab some fresh air, a little added exercise, and you will be able to push the empty cart back in and prevent unwanted dings and dents in the parking lot.  Or if you work at a clothing store, make sure to nicely fold the purchases before placing them in the bag.  Wrap them with tissue paper if available.  And walk around the cash register to present the purchases to your clients and thank them for their business.  Or if you're a travel agent, be sure to follow up with your clients after their return.  Not only will your interest in their happiness solidify business in the future, but you may also learn additional tips or updated information from your clients to pass along to others.

No matter what you're selling, offer a sample as much as possible.  You never know what big successes may stem from such a small gesture.

Monday, April 25, 2016

generation next

One of the hardest aspects of any company, particularly in the retail segment, is establishing and maintaining a strong client base while still growing your non-traditional demographics.  Many brands have tried expanding their reach, only to short-lived success.  Abercrombie & Fitch expanded to a younger demographic with their surf inspired Hollister & Co., but their attempt at wooing a more refined, mature audience resulted in their Ruehl No. 925 surviving just a few years.  American Eagle Outfitters' more sophisticated Martin + Osa unfortunately saw the same demise.   Personally, I was really sad when both of these stores closed, as their products were spot-on with fit, fabric, and price point.

To reach a broader demographic successfully, brands must have a strong awareness and identity - customers should automatically associate their brand name with quality, value, and trust.  The products must stand on their own, without overly gimmicky marketing or tacky packaging.  The same codes and hallmarks of the brand must be evident in the "new" product lines.

Two really strong, successful examples of companies expanding their reach are Target's capsule collections and Estee Lauder's new "The Estee Edit" campaign.

For the last several years, discount retailer Target has created capsule collections with luxury designers and fashion houses to viral success.  Target's shoppers are known for favoring clean lines, fresh perspectives, and quality products at an affordable price.  They're typically willing to buy a new cleaning product, as long as it smells nice or comes in cute packaging, and get weak in the knees for a "deal" on something you might not have been looking for, but would love to have.  Their client base is fashionable and trendy, well traveled and more globally aware, might own a few luxury pieces, and appreciate living a more beautiful, simple life.  So it's no surprise that designers like Alexander McQueen, Lilly Pulitzer, Missoni, Liberty of London,  and Marimekko.  These pocket collections often feature iconic prints or details indicative of the famous designs, only mass produced or made in a significantly more affordable manner.  The marketing is always co-branded, featuring a flash of the famous red bulls eye and elements so obvious to the featured design house.  And the second these products are released in-store and online, they immediately sell out.  Target makes money, brands extend their awareness, and customers get a taste of the luxe life they've only dreamed of or drooled over.  It's the ultimate "gateway drug" for luxury fashion houses to the mass market and middle America.

Another great example is cosmetics and skincare giant Estee Lauder and Sephora.  When you think of Estee Lauder, you typically think of older women like your Grandmother who are focused on anti-aging skincare and the same lipstick shade they've worn since 1962.  Over the last few years, Lauder has really ramped up their game and extended their reach to a much younger demographic, hiring the likes of Kendall Jenner as a spokeswoman and featured cover girl.  Impressively, they've continued to focus on what they're known for - bringing revolutionary skincare and quality cosmetics to the marketplace, only with a bit of a twist.  Capitalizing on social media and technology, they've recently launched "The Estee Edit", a pocket collection of established skincare and beauty products mixed with a few new products and packaging for taking the perfect "selfie".  From makeup removers, cleansers, and wipes, to pore minimizing sticks and flash photo powders, to skin illuminating creams and bronzers and everything in between, the collection focuses on how to have flawless, photo-ready skin and makeup.

Technology is always associated with youth.  The latest and greatest trends could be lost on an older generation if they seemed cheap, tacky, or not well executed.  But the power and image associated with Estee Lauder are underlying throughout all of these pieces.  And for a brand that's traditionally focused on anti-aging and looking your best, what could be more perfect than being photo-ready at a moment's notice?  It's the ultimate injection of youthfulness for the beauty brand.

Rule Breaker. Risk Taker. Beauty Boss. No one owned it quite like Estée Lauder. She built a beauty empire practicing what she preached: “Beauty is an Attitude.” In this spirit, we bring you the Estée Edit. Beauty attitudes—inspired by Estée and Guest Editors—created by you. From instantly gorgeous skin to covetable color trends. Mix it. Match it. Blend with abandon. You make the rules. This is a declaration of who you are and who you make yourself up to be. What’s your attitude? Wear it. Share it. Own it. #beautyattitudes