Career Path

A gem in the retail business

by Nicolette Wong

TSL Jewellery - career success
Ricky Ng, general manager, TSL Jewellery (HK) Co Limited
Photo: Edde Ngan
Hong Kong is internationally renowned for its dynamic business environment, and the city's constantly evolving retail sector is a major source of innovation and employment. A career in this fast-paced sector has brought plenty of professional and personal rewards for Ricky Ng, general manager, TSL Jewellery (HK) Co Limited.

With an interest in working with people, Mr Ng joined a local fashion and apparel chain as management trainee after graduating in 1992. Over the next 17 years, he gained extensive experience in retail sales, marketing and business development across the telecommunications, fast-moving consumer goods and fashion and apparel industries.

When a position with jewellery designer, exporter and manufacturer TSL beckoned in 2009, Mr Ng grabbed the opportunity, keen to take on the challenge of re-engineering the company's business. "There were improvements to be made in operations, resources and other aspects of the organisation. I was excited to come on board," he recalls.

In addition to its home-grown Hong Kong operation, Stock Exchanged-listed TSL Jewellery has more than 200 stores in Macau, across China, and in Malaysia. Mr Ng's role involves overseeing sales operations, marketing and product planning, both in Hong Kong and Macau. His aim is to align the direction of all business units with the company's strategic plans, in order to ensure ongoing business growth.

Daily tasks include reviewing the latest sales figures and communicating with different departments to discuss any issues that need to be resolved. Also on the agenda are regular management meetings.

Attention to detail

Mr Ng's hard work and dedication have paid off, leading to a significant improvement in the company's business performance over the past two years. TSL has also received several professional accolades over the past few years, including the Hong Kong Retail Management Association's Service Retailer of the Year award at the end of 2010.

"For our company to be recognised in such a substantial way was definitely a personal milestone in my career," he remarks, noting that he plans to continue to increase TSL's efficiency and service standards by reinforcing quality management at individual outlets. He believes training and communication are key to nurturing a proactive attitude among staff, particularly on the hectic frontline.

"As the leader of TSL's Hong Kong and Macau teams, I hope to see our business grow and our customers happy with our service at all times."

An outgoing personality and excellent communications skills are prerequisites for long-term success in retail, he points out, adding that attention to detail is also crucial, since the work involves extensive handling and analysis of data. Also essential is the ability to adapt and work under pressure.

Candidates interested in the jewellery field must have an awareness of logistics, while knowledge of trends in luxury goods is an advantage, Mr Ng says. University graduates that wish to embark on the sector might consider management-trainee programmes at large organisations or seek junior openings in operations, marketing, human resources or product planning at companies they are interested in working for, he advises.

For non-graduates, the best entry point is operations, since it offers the broadest exposure to an organisation's business and future career-advancement opportunities. "Solid frontline experience is a definite advantage for young talent, since it covers a range of business aspects—from product planning to marketing strategies."

Intense competition

Over his extensive career, Mr Ng has always kept a close watch on market trends, since the state of retail business is a primary indicator of economic change. He takes pride in sharing TSL's achievements with his teams. "In addition to their excellent performance, our employees really take the stories and experience I share with them to heart," he says. "This gives me genuine job satisfaction."

Rapid expansion in the sector has brought challenges, such as increasing rentals and a shortage of talent, he points out. Turnover remains an issue, as retailers in different areas compete for high-calibre candidates.

Competition is set to intensify as the mainland economy and consumer market continue to boom, resulting in an ongoing influx of cross-border travellers and shoppers into Hong Kong. "This momentum will definitely gain pace in the next decade or two," Mr Ng notes.

Young people new to retail sales and management should focus on gaining sound business experience, including in hands-on frontline roles, for the first few years, he says. "This will help them establish a good foundation for career progress, which isn't always easy, given the competitive nature of our sector. Practical knowledge, an analytical mind, excellent people skills and language proficiency are also vital."

In spite of many challenges, Mr Ng has always strived to excel and to continuously improve himself. "This is the work ethic that I like to share with my colleagues. I encourage them to always apply themselves fully to their tasks, which also makes it easier for others to support their work," he concludes.

Taken from Career Times 18 May 2012, B8

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