Macau Opportunities

Perfect timing and positioning for new retail opportunities

by Aldric Chau

Michelle Ng, head of human resources
The Swatch Group (Hong Kong) Limited
Photo: Nolly Leung

Contemporary watch retailer casts outlook overseas

To maximise business opportunities resulting from the soaring growth of tourism and leisure services in Macau, The Swatch Group, one of the largest manufacturers and distributors of contemporary watches in the world, has gained a firm foothold with the opening of its six retail stores in The Venetian Macao-Resort-Hotel conveniently situated on the rapidly transforming Cotai Strip.

"With the flourishing economic development in Macau, we foresee huge potential for business growth there. As a result, we decided to expand our business over the strait to The Venetian in Macau," explains Michelle Ng, head of human resources, The Swatch Group (Hong Kong) Limited, which operates under the umbrella of The Swatch Group of Switzerland carrying more than 10 famous brands including Breguet, Jaquet Droz, Leon Hatot, Blancpain, Glashutte Original, Omega, Longines, Rado, Hamilton, Mido, Tissot, cK and Swatch.

The Venetian Macao-Resort-Hotel is already an icon in Macau, offering more than 3,000 luxurious suites with more than 960,000 square feet of retail space hosting a wide range of world-renowned brands. Ms Ng reveals that although the store's design is required to be in line with the overall interior setting of The Venetian, each shop carries a unique image to attract its customers and reflect its own identity.

"Our target customers in The Venetian are the increasing number of holiday makers from mainland China." Ms Ng suggests. Peppered over the Cotai Strip, there will soon be more than 20 hotels built to accommodate the huge influx of visitors. Targeting such a sizeable group of customers, The Swatch Group has allocated increased capital for the recruitment and training of professional front-line staff to take on the challenge.

Essential qualities

Corporate image and front-line salespeople are intrinsically linked, since a customer will often evaluate a brand by the professionalism of its sales team. Acknowledging this, Ms Ng emphasises three indispensable qualities of a successful salesperson. Firstly, sophisticated presentation skills are essential because a salesperson must offer customers product choices and feature descriptions every day. Secondly, language proficiency in both English and Mandarin is highly valued as The Venetian customers are multinational. Bilingual proficiency therefore aids effective, professional two-way communication. Finally, Ms Ng lists basic computer literacy as a requirement since sales teams in Macau use a computerised retail management system to handle daily transactions.

Regarding computer literacy, Ms Ng further points out that the majority of local shops in Macau use a "cash memo" sales system and that transactions are usually handled manually with written invoices. Thus, The Swatch Group needs to provide its new employees with basic computer skills training to ensure all employees are familiar with the computerised retail management system of the company.

Since staff training is a critical element behind a company's success, The Swatch Group provides quality training for its sales teams. In addition to basic customer service skills, sales staff are also taught soft selling skills in order to sell in a flexible and effective manner.

"Many of our colleagues already gained some sales experience before joining us. However, they may have experience of selling different kinds of products. Considering this, alignment and standardisation of customer service and selling skills are important tasks," Ms Ng adds. "So far, 90 per cent of our employees in Macau are local, the remainder being expatriates from Hong Kong." To fulfil the increasing manpower needs in Macau however, more experienced staff such as store managers are being recruited from Hong Kong.

On the other hand, Ms Ng remarks that candidates lacking specific work experience, may join the company in Macau as shop sales and may be offered promotion to senior shop sales should performance prove excellent within a centain period of time. Following this is a promotional opportunity to the managerial level as employees accumulate more experience in the industry.

For candidates who wish to improve their language proficiency and gain international exposure, The Swatch Group at The Venetian is a perfect career choice. The group has plans to be engaged in yet more projects in Macau, to expand its business beyond The Venetian. Future demands for staff increases will reflect this.

Ms Ng advises candidates to fully equip themselves with presentation, language and computer skills. "It is worth noting that an individual's attitude, competence and even subtle qualities will be visible to customers and it is important to leave a pleasant first impression." Ms Ng says.


Taken from Career Times 12 October 2007
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