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Why putting people first will help the luxury fashion sector

Despite the downturn, the luxury fashion sector is on a roll. Here’s why putting its people first will help the industry remain buoyant.

While the retail sector in general has been at the mercy of rising interest rates and an unstable economic outlook, luxury retail – perhaps surprisingly – isn’t suffering the same fate.

Earlier this year, Bernard Arnault, CEO of luxury conglomerate LVMH, which owns Louis Vuitton, overtook Tesla’s Elon Musk and Amazon’s Jeff Bezos as the world’s wealthiest person. In 2021, the luxury sector was valued at a staggering 1.15 TRILLION euros.

As the FT recently highlighted, ‘the market for personal luxury goods rebounded rapidly after Covid lockdowns in 2020’. It attributes ‘the startling rise of the luxury sector in the past decade’ to ‘a still expanding US market and voracious appetite from China’s fast-growing upper middle class’ – with many wealthy foreign shoppers descending on UK luxury retail stores once more, following the end of Covid travel restrictions.

Those who can afford it are not planning to stop their love affair with designer labels anytime soon, it would seem.

Yet the luxury retail sector still faces the same employee engagement challenges as the rest of the retail industry. And arguably, it’s even more vital for luxury retailers to get their people strategies on point.

In luxury retail, you need the right people in the right place at the right time, to sail through consumer peaks. And you need motivated employees who live and breathe the brand experience. Are staff happy to be there, interested and knowledgeable about the brand and products? Or are they a bit lacklustre, looking like they would prefer to be elsewhere?

The retail sector is actually faring pretty well when it comes to employee engagement. In our annual State of the Frontline Workforce study, it was revealed that retail workers feel increasingly valued by their managers and are more likely to recommend a career in the industry to others – compared to those working in sectors such as hospitality or logistics.

Retail employees are also more likely to believe their job provides career development opportunities, and flexibility is often greater too.

So far, so good – our findings suggest rising levels of job satisfaction and retention, and the knock-on effect of customers consistently getting the ‘VIP treatment’. Yet there are still plenty of factors affecting retail staff that would benefit from more care and attention.

Are workers stressed due to understaffing? How much choice do they have over the hours they work? Are they able to swap shifts when they need to? (We know from our own research that flexibility – or lack of – is a huge factor in employee happiness and engagement.)

Employees being the embodiment of your brand has never been truer - streamlined workforce apps like ours mean retail staff now have access to an unprecedented level of company and product information via the phones in their pockets. They’re no longer ‘just’ store assistants; they’re product experts and brand ambassadors. Hanging onto great people, and ensuring shifts are properly staffed, therefore becomes even more vital.

Interested in finding out how you can streamline your scheduling at the touch of a button and make your employee experience as high-end as your customer offers? Download our State of the Frontline Workforce retail report or get in touch with us today to find out more about how we can help.