Sales / Marketing

A cut above

by Charles Mak

Victoria Lai (left), marketing director
Windy Wong, HR & training manager
King Fook Holdings Limited
Photo: Wallace Chan

Skilled professionals as good as gold

Faced with intensified competition in the marketplace, an established local jeweller is steadily branching out, reaching a more diverse range of customers in its continuous pursuit of excellence.

An esteemed and trusted brand with a 60-year heritage, King Fook Jewellery accentuates its commitment towards quality while maintaining its innovative streak.

"Customers identify with our brand and appreciate our craftsmanship," says Victoria Lai, marketing director, King Fook Holdings Limited. "Whatever the market situation is, we see no room for compromise."

Eight years ago, the group launched Masterpiece by King Fook stores to complement the time-honoured King Fook Jewellery brand. As the latter continues to serve the mass market, the former introduces to a different customer segment international jewellery brands, top designer watches and other prized accessory items.

The group now operates six King Fook Jewellery shops and six Masterpiece by King Fook stores in Hong Kong and mainland China.

Through the line

Sophisticated as it is, King Fook maintains a level of subtlety in its advertising campaigns, favouring below-the-line advertising tools like newsletters, VIP programmes, direct mail, incentive schemes and sales promotions.

However, in celebration of its 60th anniversary, the group has kicked off a range of activities since October last year. In particular, celebrity Josie Ho was appointed King Fook's brand ambassador.

"Ms Ho has such charisma and her public image projects both boldness and elegance, perfectly reflecting King Fook's brand identity and product repertoire," Ms Lai remarks.

A TV advertising campaign has also been launched to promote some of the group's exclusive products, thereby drawing attention to King Fook's unique position in the jewellery and luxury goods market.

Ms Lai adds, "We have the biggest selection of exclusive jewelleries. It is this sense of prestige that attracts our affluent customers."

Other promotion vehicles include sponsorship for the world-renowned West End musical Cats later in May. "We believe that musical goers constitute a segment of our target customer population," she notes. "Aside from this, we will focus mainly on private events and billboard advertising this year."

Irreplaceable expertise

According to Ms Lai, the contemporary retail business is very much about creating a shopping experience for customers.

"This explains the increasing demand for frontline professionals and training in customer service and after-sales service," says Windy Wong, King Fook's HR & training manager.

"We look for people who demonstrate four major traits: tenacity, passion, interest and the right attitude. Newcomers must also understand that it takes time to learn the ropes and build confidence," says Ms Wong. Young people with academic qualifications in jewellery design or watch production, or a GIA (Gemological Institute of America) accreditation are favoured.

Inexperienced new recruits are hired as trainees and they go through a five-day recruitment programme consisting of morning classroom sessions and afternoon shop experiences.

"Classroom training imparts knowledge in gold, jewellery, watches and shop operations," Ms Wong explains. "In the afternoon, they receive guidance from frontline staff and obtain hands-on experience on the shop floor." This essentially gives them an initial comprehension of the job and the time to confirm their aspirations. Those who stay on embark on a one-year on-the-job training scheme and with good performance become a salesperson.

Experienced new hires, on the other hand, go through screening assessments and join in the group's regular training matrix.

Promising young staff are placed in a "young talent" programme which comprises an array of training exercises including an in-depth study of the technical aspects of watches and jewellery, as well as mentoring.

"Experience sharing is essential to success in this trade and a mentor must be a successful role model who is not only versed in industry practice but is also willing to hand down skills and insights while influencing behaviours," Ms Wong stresses.

To create interest in its young talent, the group engages them in jewellery exhibitions, production plant visits, cross training, as well as other consumer events. The HR team also acts as counsellors and meets with new recruits regularly to make sure they stay the course. "They may even have a chance to take part in overseas training in Germany and Switzerland," she adds.

A well-structured two-year high potential staff programme is in place to help staff gear up for supervisory and managerial futures.

"There are several levels of training," Ms Wong explains. "First off, they shadow a manager to hone softer skills and learn to manage a retail outlet. They're also required to take management courses and work on projects such as mystery shopping, market research and comparative analysis. Chances are they will need to acquire some formal qualifications such as human resources, marketing and business management."

Frontline professionals in jewellery retail have a longer career span, which means that the more experiences they accumulate the more valuable they are. "Many frontline masters work until retirement because no modern technology can replace their expertise," Ms Wong says.


Taken from Career Times 20 February 2009, p. B4
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