One storied brand has become the darling of Madison Avenue ever since a galvanizing new creative director revived its once-fatigué look. The Daily recently sat down with a saleswoman at one of its best-performing stores to dish anonymously about life back on top. Consider this a tale of hope!
How would you describe the current state of retail these days?
It’s pretty bad in the luxury sector. Everything is down, with the exception of us. We’re so hot right now! The other stores on our street have been seriously cutting employee hours—some are only allowing their employees to work 30 to 35 hours a week.
But happy days are here again, chez vous?
Correct. Every salesperson in New York is dropping off their résumé to my manager. He proceeds to put them in an ever-expanding pile that nobody really looks at, because none of us has plans to leave anytime soon. Everyone wants to go where strong sales are guaranteed, and can you blame us? It’s not just the money—the fashion itself is so good. [Redacted creative director] is brilliant.
What was your life like when stiletto sales were weak and business was limping along?
There were basically tumbleweeds rolling around the store. We’d essentially count sheep to make the time pass. There’s only so much you can squeeze out of your private clients—we had to be really creative to make our commissions.
I always tried to think outside of the box and call hotel concierges to invite out-of-towners for a personal shopping experience. During big sporting events, we’d invite the athletes in for appointments. We’d also throw events before or after store hours. It was exhausting! It’s so nice to not work so hard.
How much did that period affect your personal finances?
Not as badly as you might think—most high-fashion luxury brands still give a pretty good base salary. We don’t rely solely on commission, although it is hugely helpful.
How much money can salespeople make?
Each of us essentially runs our own business, so the sky is the limit. It’s all about what you do on your downtime: Are you sitting there waiting for the customer to come in, or are you on the phone working it? Handbags aren’t going to make as much as ready-to-wear. A great salesperson can make well over $150,000 a year. It’s all about having the right rich lady on your side.
What kind of feedback do you get from customers these days?
The walk-in traffic has increased tenfold. There are some loyalists who think, What the hell happened to [redacted]? But the fashion customers—the ones we actually want—are so excited. In turn, it makes us excited to sell it.
Your brand’s previous creative director was known for her overtly sexy style.
But it was stale! I understood her business model—she was trying to attract the career women, like bankers and lawyers, but it wasn’t stimulating.
Tell us about the day her departure was announced.
We had heard whispers about a shake-up, so we were ready. I do find it funny that she had a baby with a colleague, and I had to watch ethics training videos? Please!
Are you competitive?
In a commission environment, there is definitely selfishness at every turn. It’s a little more respectful in the ready-to-wear area, where I work, than in handbags. Selling clothes takes a little more
polish. The associates who work in handbags have walk-in customers, and we don’t clamor for the walk-in clients like they do. There are always people complaining at the cash wrap that someone took their client. Some of the gay associates have an advantage with the Park Avenue women who want “a gay.” I try not to let that bother me.
What’s the discount?
Fifty percent! Half of my paycheck goes right back to [redacted].
Weirdest customer requests?
I meet with some clients nearly every week of the year, and I’ve become a therapist. You find out what’s going on with their husbands; they’ll open up about affairs. It’s nice to get to know clients over the years, but you really just want to see the Centurion card come out. Making relationships speeds that up. I recently had a woman who bought the same sweaters for her house in New York and her house in Aspen. Must be nice!
Do associates have clients they can’t stand?
Absolutely. Luckily, the money makes them a lot more tolerable.
How old is your average customer these days?
She’s a lot younger now. With the old creative director, the average age was 94. Just kidding.
On what occasions do you lie?
Some clients don’t want to be realistic about their size. If you even hint that perhaps a 42 would be
more flattering, you might lose the sale. I’m not above gushing at something that looks like it’s going to come apart at the seams.
Do you encounter shoplifters?
Absolutely, even with all the cameras. Shoplifters aren’t stupid: Once, a girl tried on a pair of shoes that were in a display case, and she just replaced them with her tennis shoes and walked out. It was kind of amazing how she clearly gave no f**ks.
Does your new creative god ever come into the store?
He does. He’s one of the most relatable and approachable guys.
Do your feet get tired?
Let’s just say we’re all very grateful for Dr. Scholl’s foot pads.
What’s the most a customer has ever spent?
One of my regulars spent $85,000 in one sitting. Some associates have had sales north of a million! I would have thrown up in their face out of gratitude. It’s a bit like playing the lottery every day.
Any advice for struggling luxury brands?
Promote from within! At first I thought, How am I going to sell this s**t? But I appreciate it now. You can tell he had fun making the clothes. It’s so much more rewarding to sell.