Interview on The Fashion Retailer by
A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about The Future of Stores (part 1). But stores are continuously evolving, from its product display to the role of sales assistants, including customer experience. Therefore, I will make updates about this topic on a regular basis. I recently asked Renato Mosca, a former colleague at Ermenegildo Zegna, to share his thoughts about the future of retail.
The Future of Stores (part 2) – A real-world perspective by Renato Mosca
Renato Mosca is graduated in Political Science at the ‘University for Oriental Studies’ of Napoli, Italy. Lived in Japan for 12 years and in Spain for other 16 years. He is italian, has two little daughters and has an unstoppable passion for music and movies. Renato worked in over 40 countries, with people of 90 different nationalities, training over 11,000 people in five different languages.
TFR: Please, tell us a little bit about your experience in retail and luxury.
RM: I have been working in the luxury industry for the last 25 years, before in Japan where I was Head of Retail for Ermenegildo Zegna and then in Spain, as Retail Director Iberia for the same group. Ten years ago I started my own boutique company ‘Training Luxury’, focusing on training recruitment and consulting. Our main focus is Luxury, but we work also with several multinational companies on leadership development program and coaching. For us the ‘human being’ is and will be central in the business development of the future.
TFR: What is the entrepreneur story that inspired the launch of Training Luxury?
RM: The initial idea of Training Luxury was about a community of specialists in luxury, leadership, coaching. I still have a romantic idea of the business. We like to work and do projects with people and with companies with whom we share values and also that understand what added value our expertise and innovative approach could give.
Sales associates in this era (especially in premium/luxury sectors) will be a sort of KOL (Key Opinion Leaders)_ Renato Mosca
TFR: What do you think are the main challenges in fashion in regards retail management?
RM: In a few cases, retail dynamics have remained with the approach of the 90’s. In a moment where customer centrality is key, and customers trust more peer communication than company advertisement, it’s anachronic the pure application of standard KPI. You can’t preach customer experience and push store indicators, like the units per transactions, as you can’t measure store performance with old style KPI’s when you are communicating the importance of a ‘seamless omnichannel strategy’. I dare also to say that not many retailers today have been themselves involved in sales. Therefore, it’s probably more difficult to identify the skills and competences needed.
TFR: How do you feel stores will transform due to digitization and omnichannel? What will be the new role of the SA?
RM: The Covid will accelerate this digitalization process. Sales associates in this era (especially in premium/luxury sectors) will be a sort of KOL (Key Opinion Leaders), proactively contacting customers and creating communities. The core activities will always be on creating deep relationships
TFR: Many experts and consulting companies have written about how Coronavirus will change retail? What do you think about? Are Department Stores going to disappear?
RM: As I said earlier, in my opinion Covid will accelerate a process where the digital aspects will be taken deeper into consideration. In luxury and premium will be difficult to re-propose the same selling ceremony online. In my opinion, customers will define the new retail. Their behavior in store will lead the way. I don’t think that Department stores will disappear. For many people it’s still a convenient way to look at brands proposals without being ‘intimidated’ to buy at any cost.
Louis Vuitton reopening in Frankfurt, Germany.
TFR: How can technology improve retail management? (e.g. Loyalty programs, CRM…) Could you mention some example of companies doing good in that sense?
RM: Technology is great support for retail management. However, first you have to create a ‘Customer Culture’ and that is more difficult. I remember that in the beginning of year 2000, many companies heavily invested in CRM software solutions. However, nothing happened, because the culture of the relationship with the customer was missing from the agenda.
This includes the speed to be able to establish trust with the customer and solve their problems after sale. In this still Apple, Amazon, etc. are at a completely different level compared to the rest of the organizations.
TFR: In retail, it´s not unusual to see people that followed a career path starting from sales associate and then, growing to middle / top level management positions. Do you think “new retail” (retail in the digital era) will change this characteristic as it could demand highly skilled profiles in headquarters?
RM: As I said earlier, there could be a more specific requirement for the digital positions. But then again, you need to know the business, the DNA of the company you are working for and representing. In general, this knowledge comes when you have been in contact with the customer and with the product. I think that the role of the sales associate is still underestimated by the companies (at least premium and luxury).
I still do not believe that anyone in the store should sell, because selling at highest level, means having elevated skills and competences. In a store of 10 people, I think that probably two should sell. The rest should do other tasks. To your question, I think that both stores and headquarters should evolve. Companies need better quality of people in the store, but also need better quality of people in the HQ (who should be able to identify and coach those in store)
TFR: What would you suggest to people that dream of having a career in retail? (e.g. Education should focus on science rather than creativity?)
RM: To invest in companies that believe truly in people. I would ask in the interview how many days per year do they invest in formal training. I would ask to other employees of the company how many formal one to one they have with their managers. And two essential requirements: love for people and never stop learning.