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'Mystery shopping' to help India's luxury apparel retail
Jan '12
The luxury apparel segment in India is facing a shortage of trained sales personnel. In the absence of any specialized training schools in the country for imparting proper training, luxury apparel companies are considering 'mystery shopping' as a good tool to measure and increase efficiency of their staff.

According to experts, luxury apparel retailers need sales people with good communication skills, who have a customer centric approach along with a high level of presentability.

Talking about skills needed by sales executives in luxury retail, Mr. Abhay Gupta, Executive Director, Blues Clothing Company, told fibre2fashion, “The first to top the list is that one should be aware of the standards of luxury. This has to be supported by excellent selling skills, interpersonal skills, fluent English, etc.”

“Today it is very difficult to find a good store manager who can understand how important it is to maintain the essence of an international luxury brand in India. The current manpower clearly lacks luxurious outlook towards retailing,” he adds.

According to Mr. Rajiv Grover, Vice President - Genesis Colors, “Presentability and product knowledge are the qualities that the sales staff employed in a luxury retail store should possess. The staff is also expected to have prior training about the luxury products. They should also be well-versed and well-traveled – they should know how luxury sells abroad. Moreover, they should have a passion for fashion and should be able to understand the luxury market.”

Mr. Neelesh Hundekari, Principal and Head - Luxury and Lifestyle Practice, AT Kearney India opines, “There are a couple of skills that are required by sales executives in luxury apparel retail, which are slightly different from normal retail segment. First, the product knowledge required is far superior. They should have the knowledge about the material that is being used, for instance - why it is a 'Made in Italy' kind of fabric, why it is more valuable and superior than any other product. They need to create a perception about the brand in the minds of the customer.”

“Secondly, design and fashion sense is another quality that the luxury apparel store staff should have because they need to help the customers with the latest trends in fashion. They should be able to tell people what will suit them better and what will go with what and so on. So, the fashion awareness required for the sales associate is actually much higher. In fact, the person has to be a wardrobe advisor for the customers,” he adds.

Pointing out another important aspect, he says, “An important element for luxury retail is that the sales associate has to appear as an equal to the buyer, who is willing to spend an amount of money, which sometimes is more than the monthly salary of the sales executive. The sales person needs to maintain a fine balance between being confident and being arrogant or may be nagging. The behavior of the sales executive is not a tangible element that can be measured, but the concept of 'mystery shopping' is useful.”

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