Before I head off on the cruise I have got myself a job with an agency which supplies actors/performers to work as sales consultants in stores such as Harrods, Selfridges, Harvey Niks and so on. I, being a new starter, have been placed in the glamorous surroundings of Debenhams on Oxford Street.
Considering the state of the world economy one would be forgiven for thinking that retail would be the first thing to suffer. Not, my friends, on Oxford Street if the last few weeks are anything to go by. The street has been chocobloc. The store has been buzzing. Even the recent ‘Mega Days’, where Debenhams knocked a meagre 10% off all stock, attracted an incredible crowd. People were buying. In fact people were not simply buying, they were scoffing.
According to some sources the take over the last 2 weeks has been 20% above that of last year. This may be put down to consumer panic as the first Christmas of the recession draws near. Customers could be using their spending power to put off the effects of the recession until January 2009. Or maybe people have used the boom wisely, investing well and saving for the rainy day which is now pissing on our roses. Whatever the case, I have not witnessed the symptoms of a recession on the worn out cobbles of W1.
I have to say that my first experience of retail sales has been rather enjoyable. I do find selling an exciting and often rewarding experience.Customers will only buy if there is a need. I identify the need, offer my suggestions and just let them make their choice. I hate it when you feel someone on your shoulder ready to pounce as soon as you even eyeball a bottle of Gucci.
What has got on my tits, however, is the ‘need’ to consume that is obvious in so many people who come through the doors of Debenhams. Anything with the slightest hint of a bargain is pounced on. People become greedy in these stores. They become hunters.
Last week a lady approached me with a worried look on her face. She was holding two perfume gift sets for men and needed my advice. She was buying for her sons. One had just got married and had everything he could possibly need, the other was environmentally friendly and quite difficult to buy for. She was not enjoying the process of buying gifts that are inherently meaningless for her siblings.
I started my pitch by suggesting one fragrance for the newly married son. ‘Dolce and Gabbana’s latest fragrance is elegant, trendy, subtle yet instantly recognisable. The ideal fragrance for the discerning adult male’, I offered with my subtle yet bile wrenching sales spiel. She looked at me as if I was morphing into John Paul Gautier. I took the hint and ceased the pitch. It was at this moment it all became clear. My job was not just to shift stock after all, it was to make the customer happy. I placed the elegant bottle back on its overstocked shelf, took her by the hand and led her behind the Davidoff shelf where we could not be seen.
‘Have you ever thought about buying a goat for Christmas?’, I asked. She looked at me now as if i were morphing into a goat. ‘No, it has never dawned on me’, she replied uneasily. I told her of a site which I have known about for a few years now. This world gifts site allows you to forget material goods for ungrateful friends and family by purchasing useful gifts for needy people in troubled parts of the world.
I need to state here that i have never bought a goat or a cow for Christmas but the angel on my shoulder has often attempted to twist my arm in this regard. My experience of working on Oxford Street has made me consider taking the bull by the horns, so to speak, and donating a gift this Christmas.
Back to the lady. She was completely taken by this idea. She jotted down the website address, bought D&G’s ‘The One’ for her newly shackled son and left the store a happy woman. I sold Dolce and Gabbana and a goat to a woman in Debenhams.
PS: D&G’s new fragrance retails at 35 pounds sterling for a 50ml bottle. A goat is 25.