My usual cheery and positive demeanour is vital for a career in selling. No one would ever want to visit my showroom if I was a miserable, stuck-up bitch. Unless, of course, I was fortunate enough to be the agent for the latest must-have label (which obviously I am, but maybe that secret hasn't come out yet).
This is why, at November's Drapers Fashion Summit, the chief executive of outdoor group Blacks Leisure said the retailer only employs friendly people. Pret A Manger also values friendliness over relevant experience.
Us Brits seem to struggle with service-led jobs - our reserved nature does not lend itself to the service sector. Therefore we must all strive to improve our service, because a single bad experience in a shop can be enough to lose a customer forever.
I am sure everyone has experienced a clothes shopping trip when nothing you try on seems to look right, and if the retailer cannot accept with good grace that it is not the day for you to buy, then perhaps you will not return. As a wholesale agent my selling job is slightly different because I can only take the horses to water but cannot make them drink, and for the most part I have no problem with that.
The fundamental difference between an independent and a department store is the personal service they can give. For example, a boutique owner will most likely take your purchase to their seamstress to be altered personally and so guarantee to get it back in time for your big event, whereas a department store may take weeks to make the same alteration. A boutique owner may pass on stories of meeting the designer personally when doing their buying; they can relate anecdotes of buying trips abroad perhaps, or of glamorous trips to London, stories that personalise the purchase and make it even more valuable and special to a customer.
Most of my wholesale customers are jolly souls and I really do enjoy my selling season. Face-to-face contact is wonderful, especially after a few months of office-based work interspersed with some on-the-road forays.
Cold calling is definitely the hardest part of selling and I am sure retailers can understand this. Regular customers are like friends and are a pleasure to serve; newcomers are harder to weigh up and it can be tough to interpret how best they would like to be treated.
I am relieved there is not a wholesale version of the end-of-season Sale, where people you have never seen before come and handle your beautiful merchandise and then have the audacity to enquire if they can have an even bigger discount. For that you must need the patience of a saint, and I certainly don't.
So retailers, grit your teeth, put on your biggest, friendliest smiles, move that merchandise, get the cash in, and look forward to 2007, which might even bring us some retail-friendly weather for a change.
- Clare Morgan runs the Clamor Fashion Agency in Wilmslow, Cheshire.