The Shopping Experience: High Street Apparel and Accessories

[Disclaimer : This post deals mainly with one aspect of the shopping experience – interactions with the staff. Also, the list of outlets visited for the purpose of observation is not exhaustive.
Outlets mentioned in these posts will differ widely in terms of pricing, degree of premiumness and image; for the purposes of these blog-posts, we are still tackling all these outlets together.]

The format we will follow is to begin by specifically mentioning those stores/brands that we think were good examples, and then give a few instances (without naming the brand) of those that were average or less than satisfactory.

Classy : Burberry

The sales executives at the Burberry store at Palladium were best-in-class, that’s the reason we choose to call them sales ‘execs’ and not sales ‘assistants’. In terms of presentation, they fit the brand to a ‘T’, poised, stylish and genteel. They were welcoming, knowledgeable about the collection, informative and yet un-intrusive. They encouraged us to look around, were available for assistance if needed, but let us take our time looking at stuff. When asked about a particular type of bag, they were enthusiastic about showing all available models that fit the requirements and described their attributes.

 

Satisfactory : Zara, Vero Moda and Promod

Promod: The salesperson was aware of what merchandise they had, and readily helped people find the right size etc.

Vero Moda: Though there was only one sales assistant on the floor, she was very efficient and helped multiple people in the store. When asked for help, she promptly found the size that one of our team was looking for and was confident about the fit.

Zara:  Though the sales assistants here seemed really busy, rushing about the store folding things, stacking them etc, they were willing to help when approached. They knew the sizes that were available, and walked over to the racks to help find clothes in the required size.

One comment though, we might have felt less hesitant about approaching them for help if they didn’t appear so harried and rushing around.

[Since this survey is not exhaustive, not mentioning a brand in the two sections above need not mean that we were not happy with the salespeople there, we may not have visited the outlet]

Not-so-good, a few examples of what we didn’t like :

  • In one store with 4 sales assistants, 3 of them were gossiping at the cash counter, while the fourth was busy combing out her damp hair in the mirror !
  • In two stores, the sales assistants did not bother to even say ‘hello’ or offer to help, even when we rifled through merchandise trying to find something – non-intrusive is fine, but this is taking it a bit far. One of these intently stared at the computer at the cash counter and furiously tapped keys every so often, whether checking monthly sales or playing a game on it.
  • Often noticed a slight reluctance by sales people to actually approach the racks / shelves, almost as if they were afraid that the area was infected with a contagious disease ! Many seemed satisfied to just point in the general direction of the right rack and tell you that whatever sizes were in stock were on the rack.
  • However, we noticed in one of the shops that even the salesperson that didn’t show much initiative in helping us was very enthusiastic about helping someone who had tried on some clothes and needed to find a better fit – she rushed to the racks, picked out clothes, took them over to changing room, waited there while woman changed, examined the outfit on her, gave her opinion, discussed it and then rushed off to find some accessories to match.

Our hypothesis : Even lackadaisical sales staff are enthusiastic about helping potential customers that seem further along the process towards a purchase, and hence contributing to their sales incentive. Hence the inertia to serve a customer until they display strong signs of intention-to-buy such as trying on outfits.

  • Another anecdote related to the process of trying on clothes illustrates a different point – store policy often doesn’t take into account how women like to shop, especially in India. Women often shop in groups or pairs, in order to have someone you trust give their opinion of how a particular outfit looks on you; it’s important to allow this pair to interact in or near the trial rooms.

Two of our friends visited one of these outlets; one entered a trial room to try on some clothes. The store prevented the second from standing outside the stall, so the first had to come right out of the trial room and into the store area to show her friend how she looked in the outfit – we’ve all been through this scenario, we may not like it, but we’re used to it, so far, so good.

Now one of the ladies decides to try on a back-zipped dress and needs help zipping it up. But the store won’t allow her friend to enter the trial room stall and zip it up. As per policy, their staff would provide the help needed; which would also be ok, except that the person manning the trial room was a guy !! Especially in India, this scenario just makes no sense at all.

 

So those are our observations, folks. Overall, we agree with some of Nafisa’s points. The sales experience and interactions at many of these stores could do with improvement.

Grade given by the Escape Velocity team : A few exceptions that surpassed expectations; overall, a B +.

 

Next stop: Cosmetics & Skincare

 

By,

Nafisa De Figueiredo and the Escape Velocity Team

2011-08-11T06:25:34+00:00

11 Comments

  1. cheap true religion jeans August 11, 2011 at 8:31 am - Reply

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  2. Rahul Jhaveri August 16, 2011 at 5:52 am - Reply

    EV team has shed light upon branded international brands or chains. How would this compare to high end Indian stores such as Aza or Ensemble? What could these chains learn from high end Indian stores who probably have more insight into Indian market? Or do you think that these stores cater to an entirely different segment?

    • escapevelocityblog August 16, 2011 at 9:03 am - Reply

      Hi,
      We feel that super-premium stores that want to give customers a really classy exclusive feel are equally good – whether they are the Indian ones that you name or the international ones such as Burberry, they all promise a really good shopping experience and deliver on it.

      The problems are more at the stores that are high – end but not premium / luxury.

      Regards,
      Zenobia

  3. Sanjana August 16, 2011 at 6:56 am - Reply

    Also important is after sales service. I bought a leather bag from a store at the Trident Hotel in Mumbai and had given it to be cleaned. It took 2 weeks and repeated phone calls for them to send it to the cleaners after I had dropped it off, and another 4 weeks to return to me. Even though they did it for free and did a really good job of removing major stains, I had to keep calling and reminding them. They even said once – we’ve been really busy with our end of season sale and forgot to send your bag! Definitely not what I expect when I pay an entire month’s salary on a bag.

    • escapevelocityblog August 16, 2011 at 8:06 am - Reply

      Hi Sanjana

      Thanks for sharing this anecdote.
      Nafisa also mentioned similar experiences at such luxury stores but since we didn’t really buy anything here, we are unable to comment on the after sales service experience.

      Best,
      Roshni

  4. rtyecript August 22, 2011 at 2:03 am - Reply

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  5. Celina September 6, 2011 at 6:19 am - Reply

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  6. Snowy September 6, 2011 at 7:01 am - Reply

    Great common sense here. Wish I’d thouhgt of that.

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