Sales / Marketing

Luxury group to furnish employment bonds

by Wendy Shair

Angus Wai
general manager, human resources
Photo: Dickie Tam
Shop-floor experience gives new graduates solid grounding for corporate success

Hong Kong's already dynamic high-end fashion industry is further boosted by increasing trade links with the fast-growing mainland luxury retail market, prompting companies in the sector to catch up with human resources requirements.

With an eye on increasing business opportunities, prominent brand-management company Fairton International Group Limited is planning to step up recruitment and staff engagement, offering attractive career development opportunities to lure and retain quality frontline professionals in the face of still competition for talent, according to Angus Wai, general manager, human resources, Fairton.

Newcomers typically kick off their careers in this field as sales assistants, moving up into senior sales positions. Good performers may progress to become assistant shop managers, followed by shop manager and other supervisory and managerial roles, such as operations and brand manager.

"Our retail operation is growing and we already have a substantial workforce in Hong Kong," says Mr Wai. "There's plenty of scope for our employees to progress. The sector also offers school-leavers varied opportunities to examine their own interests and potential for further development in high-end fashion retail.

University graduates with some work experience are often a perfect fit for sales, marketing and public-relations positions, points out Mr Wai. "While graduates tend not to seek out retail roles, we provide professional guidance to help them gain practical and customer-relations experience, as well as other management skills, so they may find it worthwhile to start on the shop floor and move up the ranks from there," he explains.

A career that pays

Immediate rewards are often seen as a key motivator for staff in the retail business. To this end, Fairton offers good salary packages, including bonuses and other incentives. "Since we focus on luxury goods, the monetary rewards are extremely competitive and attractive," notes Mr Wai. "Our shop managers also get the chance to be part of the buzz of the fast-paced fashion industry and it's certainly very challenging."

Fair and above-average compensation is complemented by a newly revamped "salary catch-up" system and incentive scheme, as well as additional staff allowances. This has led to significant increases for everyone at Fairton, he says.

Achievers can be certain of clearly mapped-out career development and progression opportunities, with the group's business units including merchandising and retail operations. Marketing roles cover anything from advertising and promotions to customer service and public relations.

Job candidates are required to possess much more than mere textbook knowledge, Mr Wai stresses. Employees should be dedicated to their work, with outgoing, people-oriented personalities. They should also respond readily to challenges, and show initiative where necessary.

"They must also have a knack for fashion, be passionate about prestige brands and be keen and committed to helping customers with their shopping experience," he remarks. "The right attitude is essential, since our shop assistants must function almost like consultants, helping customers to create their desired image."

Room for growth

A responsible employer, Fairton includes its staff as part of the company's business sustainability plan and is dedicated to giving its sales staff the necessary room for growth as well as a clear path towards their long-term career goals. New recruits on the shop floor are also helped to find their feet and to develop their customer-service skills.

"We provide comprehensive training, which benefits them as well as the company," stresses Mr Wai. This covers technical skills, industry knowledge and language skills, he adds. "Our outlets see increasing numbers of mainland tourists and we expect our frontline employees to be able to communicate effectively with them. They must have a good understanding of the culture across the border, so that they can relate well to our mainland customers and build up a good rapport with them."

Outstanding performance can speed up career progression, Mr Wai notes. "Our store managers must be good at both hard and soft skills, be able to motivate their staff and build a positive team spirit. Senior people should be flexible and willing to adapt to change when working with employees from the younger generation."

He is optimistic about the overall outlook of Hong Kong's retail market, believing it will continue to be fuelled by ongoing robust economic development both locally and in mainland China. The group has therefore set a target of increasing its Hong Kong workforce by five to 10 per cent and achieving a group-wide double-digit staff growth this year.

The company, founded in Hong Kong in 1955, also has a strong presence on the mainland, and in Macau and Taiwan. "We plan to further expand our business by introducing a more diversified business model, bringing in more products and services to customers," Mr Wai concludes.

Shopping for jobs

  • Shop-floor experiences give graduates a leg up the corporate ladder
  • Fair compensation, incentives and training opportunities help to retain talent
  • Job candidates must be people-oriented and able to show initiative

Taken from Career Times 8 April 2011, B5

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