It was May of 2009. I was a freshly minted MBA graduate who had dreamt of working in the luxury industry and had just been offered a position working for Louis Vuitton. I was to be a Retail Sales Manager at the LV Mall of Emirates boutique. I was excited, yet a bit apprehensive to work in a store. In my previous job I had helped my father manage a business with 130 or so employees and this seemed a bit trivial to me. However, it turned out to be one of the hardest jobs in the world and what followed was an exciting year, where I learnt everything I needed to know about luxury and retail.
I remember my first day at work. I knocked on the gleaming glass door at the Louis Vuitton store, which had a security guard manning the entrance. It was well past 10 pm, the store closing time however, behind the glass I could see a hub of activity. It was inventory night, and the store staff were preparing their scanners to make a count. I was led to a door towards the rear of the shop, which opened to reveal the back store. I was amazed to see that it had enough space for a manager’s office, a conference room, changing areas for staff, a kitchen and hundreds of shoes, handbags and clothes. I was soon introduced to the store manager, an LV veteran who had worked with the company for 12+ years. I was to assist him in helping manage the store that operated 12 – 14 hours a day, 7 days a week, with 30 + employees and thousands of walk ins a day. I also discovered that the store had 16 video cameras, 2 full time security guards and its own warehouse within the mall. It was a mammoth sales machine that could rival the GDP of some small countries.
My next big ‘wow’ experience came when I attended the newbies training, or the induction program. It took three days for the trainers to explain the basics of the products and induct us in Vuitton’s famed ‘sales ceremony’. So extensive was this ceremony, that we heard of a colleague in a Vuitton store in another country who was famous for spending around one hour Vuittonizing every client he met. The sale at Louis Vuitton was never about saying “here is the item, this is the price.” In fact, selling a Louis Vuitton product meant greeting a customer, establishing a connection and then diving into understand their needs and advising them accordingly. We had to do all of this, while also explaining the product features and the history of Louis Vuitton! Each of us found our favorite product stories which we would happily narrate to customers; mine being that of the the Neverfull bag which can carry 200 kilos on a single strap without snapping!I also enjoyed retelling the story of the Alma, which was first designed as a custom order for Coco Chanel!
Working at Louis Vuitton, I also got used to being asked countless questions about the brand. The most common was ‘why was there a line outside the LV store with the door closed? Was Louis Vuitton having a sale?’ While it is now common knowledge that Louis Vuitton never has a sale, or ever had one, the question about the door is very perplexing indeed. This takes me back to the first time I actually had to close the door and request people to wait outside. It was high season time, and even though there were 15 sales associates working in the store, we still couldn’t keep up with the number of customers streaming in. The quality of sales service was far from the one hour ‘Vuittonizing’ experience and turning into a few minutes per client. Every sales associate was trying to manage two or three clients at a time. Thus it was time to make a decision, and instead of welcoming more clients to the store, I decided that it was better to request them to wait so we could serve the current customers better. This would also ensure that while customers had to wait a bit outside, once they were in the store, the sales associates would be able to give them the experience they deserved. However, with the door closed and me outside, it was turning into a difficult job. Almost everyone who crossed the store looked puzzled and wondered if we had just gone on sale. While some clients patiently waited, others got a bit angry. However, once a small queue formed, everyone followed suite and waited in line.
Of course, at the time I had not known that my experience at Vuitton would someday lead to founding of The Luxury Closet. However, after I left the company, I was quick to realize that on one hand there were those who wished they could get their dream bag at a discount, there were others who wondered what to do with their vast handbag collections. Putting the two together was to the benefit of everyone. Over the past two years, the Luxury Closet has grown considerably from that idea, to having sold thousands of bags to clients the world over. This has been another amazing journey, that I look forward to sharing through The Luxury Closet blog.
The Luxury Closet