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Retailers vie for top talent

Published on Friday, 02 Sep 2011
Recent collections from Max Mara (pictured), Jean Paul Gaultier and Sportmax.
Recent collections from Max Mara, Jean Paul Gaultier (pictured) and Sportmax.
Recent collections from Max Mara, Jean Paul Gaultier and Sportmax (pictured).
Angus Wai
Photo: May Tse

It's hard to imagine life in Hong Kong without the conspicuous presence of luxury brands in the city's shop windows, advertising hoardings and video screens. And, given their long-standing love affair with high-end labels, locals seem to need little persuasion to be walking billboards for their favourite brands.

"The power of a brand lies in what resides in the minds of the customers - what they've learned, felt, seen and heard about the brand - the result of their experiences over time," says Angus Wai, general manager of human resources at Fairton International Group.

Founded in 1955, Fairton is a brand management company bringing high-end fashion, luxury goods and lifestyle products from around the globe to Hong Kong, the mainland, Macau and Taiwan. The list of prestigious brands Fairton works with includes Jean Paul Gaultier and Max Mara.

"Brand management is not a battle of products; it is a battle of perceptions," Wai explains.

And, in recent years, new tools have emerged for shaping these perceptions. "Apart from the conventional media and advertising channels such as print and TV - and event management and catwalk presentation for the fashion industry - the internet has become a leading medium [for brand management]. Social networking sites are now another very influential platform for rapid `word-of-mouth' promotions."

These developments have helped to accelerate the explosive demand for luxury goods on the mainland.

With demand for high-end brands booming - especially among mainland shoppers - Fairton is keen hire new staff.

"We are looking for experienced, high-calibre talent to join our general and brand management teams," says Wai. "We're looking for general managers for multiple brands and brand managers for specific brands. We are also seeking recruits with potential for our middle management team which fulfils a variety of functions across Greater China."

To cater to the more discerning consumers, Wai says applicants for positions with Fairton require some particular qualities. "Creativeness, aggressiveness, knowledge, business acumen, fashion sense and flair, customer focus, a never `feeling full' appetite to improve and take on new concepts... These are all a must to ensure success," he says.

But Fairton isn't the only company looking to hire marketing and sales talent in what has become a highly competitive market place.

"This is particularly true on the mainland," says Wai. "In places like Shanghai, the demand for talent is always huge."

He considers the lack of a properly structured young graduate development programme for the whole brand management industry as a possible threat to its future growth.

However, Wai is much more confident about the programmes Fairton has set up to nurture its own talent.

"We have a fully-fledged, and very structured, training programme in place for our frontline and shop-level staff," he says. "It begins by covering foundation-level skills and techniques for servicing and selling, and moves on to highly focused product and skill-set training across the whole shopping experience. More advanced courses are dedicated to upselling, cross-selling, fashion mix and matches, styling and the like. For shop management staff, we have coaching skills training and, among others, courses designed to help them keep pace with the new generation."

All this, Wai adds, supports Fairton's preference for in-house promotions. "We strongly encourage internal movement and promotions. When suitable vacancies arise, we would first consider our internal talent pool."

He says that the company encourages and assists employees in developing their skills throughout their career.

"For middle and senior level staff, we also organise periodic and timely soft and management skills training, seminars, experience-sharing sessions, and courses in business strategy and planning, financial management... training in a whole range of areas," he says.

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