Sales / Marketing

Growing with the times

by Miranda Breding

Rasheed Shroff, Vice President
Fossil (Asia) Ltd
Photo: Wallace Chan

International retailer looks for innovative and service-oriented staff

Clever marketing strategies based on a brand's unique characteristics are crucial for global recognition and success.

Fossil is one publicly traded company that has seen rapid growth in recent years, prompting one American analyst to describe it as "the next great US brand". The company already has 113 stores worldwide and plans to have more than 700 in the next five years.

When the company was founded in 1984, Fossil products had a retro 1950s-American feel, but the company has evolved a lot since then. "People who bought a Fossil watch just five or six years ago and have a certain perception about the brand may be surprised if they have a closer look now," says Rasheed Shroff, Vice President, Fossil (Asia) Ltd.

In addition to its 300-plus watch styles in the mid-tier fashion segment, Fossil now also retails jewellery, leather goods, eyewear and, in the US, clothing lines. "I haven't come across any other international retailer that focuses as heavily on accessories and products that work in synergy with those accessories," Mr Shroff says.

Branding success

Fossil's market domination in the US was sparked when the company forged partnership with department stores launching complementary accessory lines and opening stand-alone stores.

In the early 1990s, Fossil had the foresight of acquiring license agreements with a number of international fashion brands. "Today every fashion brand has a watch line, but this was a new phenomenon at the time," Mr Shroff says. Emporio Armani, DKNY, Burberry, adidas and Michael Kors are just a few of the designers in Fossil's watch portfolio. For Fossil, the new frontier lies in jewellery.

Customer database marketing and the continuous rollout of new stores help accelerate brand growth. Mr Shroff remarks that superior awareness of international fashion trends, strong design and advanced production technology all work together. Global store synchronisation, frequent new product launches and outstanding window displays provide an extra edge.

"Our stores are essentially billboards for our brand, giving us the opportunity to offer our customers a 'real' experience. When you walk in, you feel as if you're in a luxury environment in terms of the fixtures and fittings," Mr Shroff says. At the same time, customers feel that Fossil products offer value for money.

Room for growth

Fossil plans to open at least four more stores in Hong Kong and Macau this year. "Eight years ago, our local distribution team had only five staff members. Today, we have more than 200," says Mr Shroff.

The company is looking to employ about 20 additional managers and sales staff. Fossil's policy is not based on hard sell, but on making customers comfortable with the products on offer. "Our philosophy is that if customers don't buy something today, they will hopefully return because they liked what they saw and experienced," Mr Shroff notes.

Candidates must be energetic, ambitious, positive and confident, and are aware of the importance of personal appearance and customer interaction.

Retail sales candidates should have a good understanding of customer relations. Although not mandatory, Cantonese, Mandarin and English skills are an advantage. The company will consider applicants with experience in retail in first-tier Hong Kong shopping malls, but will also look at fresh university graduates and other aspirants.

Key attributes for sales associates include the ability to work effectively in a team and provide excellent customer service, and an eagerness to learn and grow. Annual staff reviews allow senior management to coach high-achieving as well as under-performing staff on expectations, goals and career advancement.

The company provides excellent internal promotion opportunities. Capable and motivated staff may use their floor experience to move into an office position as they move up the corporate ladder.

Meanwhile, a store manager's role is to handle the day-to-day operation of the shop. This includes maintaining a pristine environment, keeping a well-stocked and well-managed merchandise inventory and ensuring that staff behave according to corporate standards.

"We are looking for people with initiative and fresh ideas to drive sales, and we expect store managers to maintain close communication with the head office," Mr Shroff concludes.

Staff focus

  • Managers and sales staff in demand
  • Rosy future for customer-oriented team players
  • Internal promotion opportunities abundant


Taken from Career Times 16 May 2008, p. C3
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