On selling, networking and the retail experience

I happened to stumble upon this interview with Gucci’s CEO Mark Lee from last October where he discusses Gucci’s expanding presence in the Indian market. One of the points that came up was how luxury brands can sell to those with ‘new money’ who have the cash and the will to spend it, but can be intimidated by the store experience of top-end brands like Gucci and Louis Vuitton. Lee admitted that “In Gucci, our focus is that there should not be rudeness or there should not be snootiness now. Do we achieve that goal every time? No. It is a big focus of mine and we should strive to exude that warmth because it does not need to be a cold or a snooty experience.”

I am becoming more and more convinced that the experience of shopping is what will become important as the recession continues. When we buy something, yes we are buying an item but how much more will we enjoy it if we had a nice time buying it? And won’t that make us want to go back for seconds? I’m already finding that if I’m in a browsing mood I gravitate towards shops where I enjoy the environment from the merchandising, to the ambience, the music and the staff. This is why I love shops like Shop at Maison Bertaux, Dover Street Market and Start. The staff are genuinely friendly and knowledgeable and although they are obviously there to sell the stuff, you don’t feel like they’re just trying to flog you whatever they can, it’s all very subtle and extremely seductive.

A friend who used to work at Maison Margiela in Bruton Place is a very good salesperson. She told me how she would get into a natural conversation with a customer which would often lead to a sale, purely because they didn’t feel they were being sold to. In a sense the selling experience is a little like networking. Networking has a bad image as it’s seen as an insincere “I’m only talking to you because I think you can offer me something” whereas it’s really a two-way exchange. The same goes for the buyer-seller relationship. The seller makes some friendly chit-chat, the buyer lowers her hackles, the seller finds out more about the customer and her tastes and may go the extra mile by clueing her in on next week’s deliveries or a new range they’re launching. The two parties bond and a sale is made. The seller gets her commission, the buyer goes home with a nice new Margiela dress.

Some say they prefer shopping online but for me shopping online is a totally different experience to shopping in person. Many’s the time I have passed a store, decided on a whim to pop in, and ended up buying something that caught my eye. If I shop online it’s usually for something specific. I rarely browse and then find myself buying something unexpectedly. However, I can’t argue that the internet is a much easier, quicker and more straightforward option. If the high street wants to claw backs its customers from the internet it will have to make the in-store experience more enticing and it would do well to start with its staff. Less snootiness, and more warmth is the way forward.

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7 Responses to On selling, networking and the retail experience

  1. WendyB says:

    I sell many more of my pieces than stores manage to do precisely for this reason. People like an opportunity to talk to the designer, hear the story of the pieces and get my opinion on what they’re trying on. No salesperson who is dealing with dozens of designers is going to be able to give them an experience like that. Private client sales are really where it’s at for me this year.

  2. pretty face says:

    How funny, I just wrote about shopping experiences.

    Well I most definitely agree with you, although sometimes nice shopping experiences can bea little bit of a distraction; I bought a bad last week, mainly I think because the person selling it to me was so nice…

  3. Rachie-Pie says:

    agree! I hate snooty shop people because they just make me feel intimidated and not want to g in the shop let alone buy anything. I do feel like I don’t belong in certain shops sometimes just because the way I dress does not ouze money or look conventionally smart. Its so annoying!

  4. Francis Girard says:

    Great post. I grew up in a small rural town where money was abundant, rural money is not often flashy and the man in his farm boots who drives his truck into town to purchase his pint of milk could always buy and sell the wannabe ladies who lunch at the local cafe…. outrageous money always seems so much nicer when its humble. Now Corucopia is closing, when the owner cant say about 6 weeks ago he told me it was in a month but its still alive and well and last week I even saw new stock in there which kept my spirits up. I will keep you posted and will draft a post this week – look out for it around Fridayish

  5. Rollergirl says:

    Thanks for all the comments. Francis is referring to her comment on Susie Bubble’s blog re Cornucopia closing down. I have just finished a post that I was going to put up tomorrow. Was going to tweak it a bit, but I think I’ll post it now!

  6. enc says:

    I’ve been in my local Gucci store, and the people working there are a bunch of icebergs. I would love to get close to the merchandise, but I refuse to endure the negative experience there. If I want Gucci, I’ll get it online or in a department store.

    It’s too bad.

  7. LaBish-Shop says:

    The retail experience is so important right now. It’s retail theatre that drives people in-store over just shopping on-line and it’s great to see people cottoning on to what the retail industry has known for years – and in a positive way. I couldn’t agree more and it’s down to brands and retail design gurus to make getting out to the shops more exciting, more unique and more pleasurable. Relevant brand spaces are the way forward; I love to check out a great pop-up store just for the “experience”.

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