The luxury retail industry works very differently from mass or affordable retail industries. They have diverse rules and requirements. If you wish to make a career in luxury, then here are some beginning steps
By: Abhay Gupta, Luxury Expert, Author, Speaker, Professor of Luxury Management
Posted on: April 11, 2019
The luxury industry is expanding at an unprecedented rate. With a more diverse product portfolio that caters to various demographics, the appreciation for all things luxury is becoming widespread. Millennials across the world make up for the biggest consumer demographic for luxury brands.
With products that range in hundreds, thousands of dollars and more, brands need to maintain an appropriate image for their products. This combined with the growing luxury market size in various markets has created a need for skilled luxury professionals who understand the intricacies involved in the luxury industry. With brands focusing on providing an omni-channel experience, there is a higher need of employees who can provide an overall skill set in handling a variety of situations. The retail manager should also know how to click images for social media while the digital head should understand consumer patterns offline as well. Hence, hiring the right employees that emulate the brand’s ethos is crucial for their success.
One of the key aspects of working in the luxury industry is a clear understanding of the difference between luxuries vs. designer vs. super-premium vs. premium.
Breaking into the industry and working for the luxury industry needs a certain attitude with the blend of appropriate academic excellence and professional experience. As a luxury retail professional, one is expected to provide a unique ambiance and atmosphere, reflecting and reinforcing the brand’s ethos. You must also have innate sensibilities for appreciation of time and sheer labor that goes in crafting such beautiful products. Therefore, knowledge of a product’s most intricate details is crucial for all employees. Acting as a product expert, delivering that extra special experience of shopping in a luxury store is highly critical. As a result, employees take on the role of brand custodian, product expert, and a fashion or lifestyle consultant.
Currently, career options are available in various segments such as Fashion and Accessories, Watches and Jewellery, Fragrances and Cosmetics, Home ware and Interior Design, Wines and Spirits, Retail, Leisure and Hospitality, Artwork and Collectibles, Real Estate, Luxury Spa and Wellness, etc. Some reputed posts for which brands are always on a lookout include Luxury Brand Manager, Luxury Goods Product Manager, Fashion Retail Buyer, Fashion and Product PR Specialist, and many more depending on your capability, skills and interests.
Skills required to craft a niche in the luxury industry
Luxury is a zero-tolerance domain. Luxury companies seek practitioners who are well-versed with the needs and requirements of the customers. Hence, one needs to be a keen follower of the luxury industry and have personal aspirations for the products. Additionally, empathy and a natural ability to be able to strike up a conversation is key. Attention to details, a dynamic personality, ability to perform with excellence in customer service, awareness of the latest trends in the industry, a natural flair for inter-personal interaction and excellent communication skills are key to success in the industry.
Following are few important skills that a Luxury Manager must have:
1. Dynamic personality: If you want to work as a front-facing luxury professional, you will be dealing with a diverse range of customers, and you should essentially possess a dynamic personality. The right amount of charm, intelligence, sense of responsibility, credibility mixed with good manners, etiquettes, and a high level of fitness further leading to an overall pleasing persona are desirable essentials. You should have high interpersonal and communication skills. Moreover, you should be a good listener and be capable to motivate others within the team.
2. Command over English language: English is one of the most prevalent form of universal communication. It is accepted and adopted by a varied set of geographical customers. Having a very good command over this language is hence of extreme importance. Correct language skills right from basics of punctuations and grammar, leading to crucial writing skills is extremely necessary. Good writing skills are, therefore, valued in the workplace. People who are good writers are preferred. A Luxury Manager cannot afford a single mistake in delivering the right message to his/her clients, vendors, team members or management. Hence, this is the foremost soft skill. She should be well versed to communicate via various mediums like Twitter, Facebook, text messaging, blogging, emails, etc.
3. Good Verbal and Nonverbal Communication: A typical luxury manager should have good command over not only verbal but also non-verbal communication. The way you speak, the way you stand, your entire body language, gestures, your voice tonality, pitch, grammar, punctuation, spelling etc, defines you and your brand. It is a well-established fact that 93% of communication is “nonverbal” in nature. What you say is as important as how you say - a Luxury Manager is essentially a combination of 60% substance and 40% style.
4. Etiquette and Mannerism: In any working situation, you are perceived as more capable, more professional, and more intelligent if you are familiar with the proper code of conduct for the workplace. The science of personal space, client privacy, humility and gentle persuasions are to be mastered.
5. Strong Networking Skills: The key to a being a successful luxury manager is building strong relationships with right people at every occasion. Luxury is a business of references and almost everything works on personal relations. From a job to a client, all can be located and networked into. Luxury events, conferences, trade meetings, award shows, etc. are good places to establish a network. A luxury school that can help you get a chance to work in such events with prominent brands is a win-win: You will get the practical exposure of working in a brand, and it would also be helpful for networking.
6. Be Informed: Being informed of latest happenings, not only in the luxury trade, but also in environment, politics, global updates, consumer preferences and general awareness, are key to easy engagement, leading to great networking opportunities. A luxury customer loves to engage with an equally knowledgeable service provider. Hence being an up and about person is essential to work in this industry.
How can one acquire the requisite knowledge and skills to work in the Luxury Sector?
Over the years, complexity of managing the luxury business has got intense and further challenging due to different geographical markets servicing varied cultural customers, consumer behaviors and service expectations. Democratization of luxury into various sub-categories of core, aspirational, accessible, super-premium and premium has added to further challenges. To meet such demand, several business schools around the world offer a specialization stream of ‘Luxury Brand Management’. This stream takes an aspirant through a structured learning journey of the historical evolution of luxury brands, the complexities involved and the special strategies employed by these brands.
Needless to say, choosing the right business school is logically the next step for an aspirant.
How to choose your gateway to Luxury?
The demand for trained professionals is high in the industry. Hence, this is the perfect time to choose this as a career opportunity. With so many schools offering Luxury courses, the correct selection of the school is a foundational step in one’s career.
A few important tips could be:
1. Normal School Vs Luxury School: Pursuing a course specifically from a business school which focuses only on luxury as a stream should be the preferred choice over other business schools which offer luxury courses along with other streams.
2. Faculty of the school: Choose a school which has a mix of academic and industry experienced faculty. Industry practitioners are duly able to curate in-depth practical knowledge as they implement the practices rather than just the theory. Being a part of the industry, they also offer opportunities to be informed about the latest trends, developments, happenings besides also act as an access point into the industry.
3. Deep rooted associations with various International organizations: Pursuing a career from a luxury business school is a great first start that can definitely help with the lucrative career of working with some of the most known luxury brands in the world. Association of the school with international trade and brand bodies leverages the association into practical exposure from a global perspective.
4. Industry connect opportunities: A school that offers real-time industry exposure and interaction with a well-rounded set of industry leaders from various sectors helps grow your understanding and reach. Since the luxury industry encompasses a wide domain ranging from fashion to travel to automobiles, health and wellness, travel, wines, etc, the more you get exposed at this stage, the better career choice you will make.
5. Real time exposure to industry events and site visits: Does the school of your choice arrange for you to visit industry events like fashion shows, launch events, luxury conferences? Do they offer you an opportunity to actually visit stores, offices, design labs and workshops of luxury brands? Are you able to mix classroom sessions with actual field trips?
6. Live projects, entrepreneurship and incubation centers: Does the school of your choice send you to real time industrial live projects where you actually work on a problem being faced by an organization? Do they encourage you to innovate and be an entrepreneur? Do they have an incubation center to facilitate your journey into luxury entrepreneurship domain? These are some questions you need to answer while selecting your preferred school.
With the large demand for trained professionals in the industry, students and professionals can drastically increase career possibilities by pursuing specialized courses such as a Post Graduate Diploma in Luxury Brand Management which specifically caters to this need. Pursuing such specific skill-based courses help fresh graduates and experienced professionals to acquire the skills and attributes needed to start a career in the Luxury industry. However, one must choose wisely.
Abhay Gupta is the founder, promoter and CEO of Luxury Connect (a boutique consulting organization) and Luxury Connect Business School (LCBS). He has helped establish luxury brands like Versace, Versace Home, Versace Collection, Corneliani, Arredo Classic, etc in India. Luxury publication Blackbook recognizes him as one of the ‘Top 100 Indian Luxury’s Most Influential’ for the past 6 years. He is also a recipient of the ‘Luxury Retail Icon 2012’ title by Asia Retail Congress. Having being featured in Forbes Luxury Trend Report 2012 as one of the industry leaders, he has also been widely recognized as a luxury expert by many media organizations. FondazioneAltagama has also recognized his contribution to the growth of Italian luxury industry by his pioneering efforts in India.