Taking charge of Pandora Viet Nam in such a trying year for the whole world, Mrs. Quynh Le – the new Operation Director of the renowned jewelry brand, believes that this is the opportunity for her and the team to re-establish the brand’s influence and pave its way towards a comprehensive breakthrough.
Greetings Mrs. Quynh Le! Amidst the unrest in the retail industry, you have chosen to join the Pandora brand. Could you share with us the strategies you have employed to ensure the brand’s development in such a period?
One might say that it wasn’t the best time for me to take over Pandora as Operation Director in Vietnam due to the Covid-19’s market-wide impact. However, when taking the brand’s future prospects into account, I realized that this was our opportunity to work towards a comprehensive development and seize a significant advantage for ourselves. Going forward with the help of my associates, I have implemented three main strategies for this period, which are all closely related to our stores system. First, refresh the store’s appearance; second, improve the service protocol to optimize customer’s experience at the store; and third, expand the stores system across major cities with a view to increase the brand awareness in the whole country. Pandora has long been a prominent brand in other foreign markets, and I believe that Vietnam will not be an exception with its amazing potential and growth rate.
Traditionally, jewelry is simply treated as a form of investment, but with Pandora, it bears a whole different concept. Not only does it possess a modern and fashionable design, coupled with the latest technology, each item of jewelry from Pandora is also a “memory keepsake” for its owner – capturing their most beautiful and memorable moments and telling the story of their life. It is for such a humanistic value and its potential in the long run that I decided to join Pandora Viet Nam, and with my many years of experience, I’m confident that the value I contribute to the brand will help it grow ever stronger.
How has the economic impact of the pandemic affected Pandora Viet Nam’s operations?
A jewelry brand such as Pandora is undoubtedly heavily affected due to the product’s price range being relatively higher than the population’s average income. When I first accepted the offer to run Pandora Viet Nam, I had to come up with a long-term business plan for the brand for the next 6 years from such an unpredictable start point. Committing to the long run, I must continue observing, evaluating and altering our course so that Pandora Viet Nam will develop in a flexible and proper way, while still securing the final goal. In business, the normal coping mechanism when facing unpredictable hardships is to minimize operation, cut down on expenses and put a halt to growth, ensuring the business’ survival in a state of “hibernation”. We, however, decided to take a whole different path.
As mentioned above, the Covid-19 period is our opportunity to put the system off the normal heavy load, therefore having time to focus on the lingering issues we haven’t been able to deal with conclusively over the years. First on this list is the optimization of our internal affairs, such as reinvesting in the human factor and restructuring the service protocol… The recent lock-down, therefore, has actually been the most active and efficient period for our internal training activities. And with all these preparations, I believe we are well-fit for the on-going store expansion strategy.
With the market still in turmoil, many brands tend to put their sales figures in top priority. What is your priority for Pandora?
Despite the fact that our customer flow has decreased, this challenging time has also allowed us to determine and cater for those who have a real demand and loyalty towards the brand. As long as there are women who want to be beautiful, we will always be here, taking care of them and recommending the most suitable products for them. At Pandora, we do not only focus on sales figures or customer flow, but also customer relations quality. We must achieve an effective interaction between the seller and the buyer to make sure that our customer will return again and again.
My perspective in business management is to always prepare adaptive strategies for any circumstances, whether in time of prosperity or adversity. One shouldn’t lack optimism, but what’s important is the ability to see through the market and come up with a situational solution to ensure the success of the long-term goal.
With the pandemic declining from its peak, surveys have indicated a growing trend in online shopping. Meanwhile, Pandora Vietnam is still focusing on expanding its store network. Why going in this direction and why such a conviction?
It is undeniable that online shopping has witnessed a phenomenal growth in the recent time. However, this new consuming behavior is only suitable for certain products, for instance daily supplies, where the products don’t cost much and the consumer has a good understanding of them. For valuable jewelry, on the other hand, the consuming behavior is entirely different, as people will always want to get a hands-on experience at the store no matter how attractive and realistic the product might look in the advertisement. People want to be there to put the item on for a test, to view relevant products, to get customer care and receive advice on how to preserve the item, and a million other reasons before paying for such a luxurious item.
Each brand has their own way to reach their customer, and for Pandora, we focus on “the unforgettable moments in life”. For every event in your life, you can choose a corresponding charm to preserve the memory. Not only a keeper of memories, Pandora also aims to help you tell the story in your own way, harboring messages of personal value. Thanks to this uniqueness, Pandora’s jewelry designs are never obsolete, and possess an ever-lasting value to those who hold it most dear. Such special features further warrant the need for customers to be at the store, to immerse fully in the feelings that the item instills, an experience that online shopping can never bring about.
Moreover, these recent shifts in the consuming behavior have also led many brands to reconsider their business method and go online instead, thus providing Pandora with the opportunity to acquire prime locations to launch our new stores sooner than expected. These are the grounds for our conviction in the role and advantage of the chain store system in the jewelry business in general, and for Pandora Viet Nam in particular.
Having been a senior business manager in high-end fashion before switching to the jewelry industry, do you see any similarity between these two fields? And how has the experience in the former been useful to you in the latter?
In the high-end retail industry, be it fashion or jewelry, there are basic principles that everyone must follow, one of which is the 4Ps principle: Place – Products – Price – People. No matter what you’re selling, the KPIs are the same. While my previous experience has helped me with problem analysis, it is the ability to handle the situation in a timely manner that counts. The market is always changing, and now with the current situation, everything can change in a matter of a day. The longer you work in an area, the better you become at observing a situation and make a decision upon it. For me, whenever I take a look at how a store operates, my experience tells me where the problem lies and how to fix it properly. Therefore, although Pandora Viet Nam is implementing a long-term strategy over the next 6 years, I must always stay alert to improvise and adapt my plan to the market’s fluctuation at any given time.
As you mentioned earlier about the brand’s top priority for human development, what personnel management strategy are you applying at Pandora Viet Nam?
The first thing I did after joining Pandora Viet Nam was bringing about changes in the human factor, and I dedicated almost all of my energy to it. Whether a work is completed smoothly or not depends on those who do it, doesn’t it? Amazing service quality always comes from amazing staff. In the retail industry, there are periods when employees are required to work overtime extensively, so the key here is to create a corporate culture where people are motivated and happy even when they have to do so. In order to achieve this, a manager must be able to convince every employee that their career advancement is inextricably linked to the company’s growth. Once they acknowledge and resonate with this harmony of individual and collective vision, they are guaranteed to bond and contribute on a higher level. In addition, it is necessary to provide you staff with a feeling of security in terms of their income, for everyone has a family to care for, and a whole lot of personal concerns to deal with. I believe that once my employees feel safe and enjoy the environment where they work, the rest will be much simpler to “figure out”.
Another major feature that I’m proud to present at Pandora Viet Nam is the introduction of the “intelligent teamwork” culture, where everyone must use their “brains” instead of their “brawns” to minimize stress while maximizing efficiency in every task. Moreover, I’m also putting some emphasis on the “winning team” style, which brings out the competitive spirit between different teams to encourage overachievement. Everyone at Pandora must become a collective that is strong and supportive, creating a working environment that even the manager feels comfortable to be in. “Teamwork” – that’s what my management is all about.
The sales staff is always the backbone of any retail business. So in your opinion, what type of quality or knowledge do they need in order to lead a lasting career in this field?
According to my standard, a retail sales employee must have honesty, without which they won’t be able to last long in this field. That is why I always want to create a transparent and healthy working environment for the sales team, since it is also a matter of reputation. As for knowledge, in fact, the only thing that they need to be reinforced with is the basic knowledge in retail and soft skills in sales. It’s simply about standing at the store and selling things, but doing research, analyzing and putting into practice various sets of skills in order to sell things, especially when it comes to high-end products.
I often tell my sales employees that the store is their second home, in which I will not be their boss, but they will be each other’s bosses. The staff in the same store must learn how to coordinate their work, adapt and bond with each other, such that the store reaches its expected figures and everyone is rewarded according to their efforts. This means that the responsibility to train new employees lies with those in the same store and not with any boss. Sticking with the “teamwork” spirit, I empower each employee to analyze the strengths and weaknesses of their store, to propose and determine a solution, with the help of some general guidance, and to ultimately develop their skills. Once they realize that they’re capable of the previously impossible and become more professional, they will have more reason to devote to the brand more passionately and will be motivated to advance on their career ladder.
So what is your personnel development policy? How do you manage to acquire competent and suitable personnel for the company?
You can’t always find the perfect recruit, that’s the hiring problem that vexes every company. Therefore, the training and human management policy still plays a crucial role. One might say that successful companies are those who possess potential individuals and an effective training system. The role of a manager in this process is to provide potential employees with the needed concern and support to help them achieve a higher position in their career. There’s not enough time to train everybody, so we need to select only those with the most suitable qualities. Train them to know what to do in the present and where to go in the future, arouse in them the fire of passion so that they bravely step out of their comfort zone and grow to the best of their potential. With enough understanding and confidence in their own talents, they will have every reason to give it their all and live up to their expectations.
Just as every charm on a Pandora’s beaded bracelet marks a memory that, when pieced together, tell the story of one’s life, how do the most memorable milestones in your career, when pieced together, tell the story of your life?
I suppose that my success today would be impossible if it hadn’t been for that milestone when I had the honor to work with my senior predecessors in the fashion retail industry, those who I’ve always regarded as my teachers. In our younger days, we learn from the teachers at school, but now on our career path, the teachers are just about anyone who is better than us. Another memorable milestone was when I first became store manager for an international brand. The position allowed me to get a better grasp of a salesclerk’s job, as I helped them handle hundreds of nameless tasks that arises on a daily basis. These real-life experiences still prove valuable to me until this day, helping me make better and more appropriate decisions towards my team. And many other memorable milestones that have helped me “last this long” in such a hectic and backbreaking grind of the retail industry. On every journey, I’m the kind of person who keeps pursuing her passion till the end, so I believe that the string that pieces all these “milestone” charms together is my determination – the guiding instinct that has accompanied me on every step of the way.
On your career path, have you ever encountered an obstacle just because you are a woman? What do you think about women’s career opportunity nowadays?
I have, a lot! My previous jobs required a great deal of moving around, which a woman such as myself was not physically fit for, especially when the schedule gets tighter and tighter. That being said, I must assert that retail is a female-predominant world. This is the realm of women where everything must be detailed and meticulous, thus making our sensitivity and patience an advantage. I have in fact done business with many fellow women, and retail is a field where those at manager level are mostly extremely talented women.
There’s a common joke that goes “work hard, play hard”. Do you agree with this notion?
I think that going to the extremes on either is inadvisable, and that everything should have a limit (laughs). You don’t need to go full speed ahead as a manager because from time to time, you may need to turn around and see how your employees are catching up. Whenever I make a decision, I always try to ensure that it is, to an extent, acceptable for the body of staff and not affecting their private time. The same goes for playing, you may enjoy yourself fully after an accomplishment, but always make sure that you don’t enjoy it too much and cannot get back up. Being able to do so, you’ll find more excitement in everything you do, knowing how to use your intellect and energy in an optimal way. In addition, you should also maintain a certain level of positivity. Personally, I’d opt to pay absolute focus at work, and put everything aside when I get home. And most importantly, always live and work with a plan, though you may need to be flexible at times, because having a decent plan will help you keep on track with your expectations while picking up a few interesting things along the way as you observe and explore.
Text: JENNI VÕ, HỒNG ĐẶNG | Creative Director: HIEPLEDUC | Photo: THẠC TRƯỜNG GIANG
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