Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Beauty Dept Lays-off at Saks Flagship in 2010

The New York Post reported today that 100 sales associates in the beauty department will be let go come January 2010. The reasoning behind the move? Many counters are supplied with company appointed beauty reps from companies such as Dior, Chanel, Lancome etc. who specifically cater to customer needs and are trained to know product lines thoroughly enough to recommend items and create regimens.
Will this company appointed make-up artists bring a less “salesy” approach to high-end department stores ? After all, the brand reputation is associated with the quality of their products, strategy in advertising and how well it moves off the shelf.
I have all of 2 examples of how this strategy may work for high-end department stores. Over the summer, I needed new skincare, after reading a magazine and doing my research with fellow bloggers, I journeyed over to Saks and visited a high-end luxury brand counter. With what was initially a stop for x ended up with product recommendations, a regimen, and the purchase of x and y. Upon payment entered the sales associate who informed me of a special promotion for Saks but when I had specific product questions- she forwarded me to the company brand rep. I found it frustrating, why couldn’t they answer my question about x but want my credit card? I understand the deal, they are in sales, but had I gone to another counter who didn’t have a brand rep- I would have high-tailed it to the door.
On another note, without the brand reps with their specialized product knowledge, I am pushed to buy products that clearly do not work for me. For example, the foundation or lipstick shade will not look drastically different once I walk outside. The ashiness will not go away or blend with my skin as the day wears on- no excuses, it just doesn’t work. Additionally, on another visit, same Saks on 5th Ave, different counter- at an event, where there were company reps , the product recommendations where spot-on and if they ran out of the product used on my face? I was given a chart or card with the recommended products and asked to call back or stop in to follow-up and inquire, plus that same rep rang me up and completed the process. Personally, that keeps me coming back for more.

I’ve never known the full extent to “counter culture”. My only idea was brand reps (National Artists) who came to events like the Nordstrom’s Trend Show and then the reps who worked at counters and then the sales associates. For me the structure began to blur with the counters and who I asked- etc. A counter vs. a flagship or boutique is clearly obvious. But moseying in to see a product that a friend or colleague recommended- I didn’t know who I was dealing with unless I knew them. My knowledge of sales associates were from the phone calls I received about the collections and launch dates.
Can this Saks renovation turn it around and increase the quality of being specialty niched focus? Will this lead to individualized attention which could turn into overall customer satisfaction and? I guess we have a whole new year to look at this in scope…

photo: googleimages

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