MBA Luxury Brand Management

MBA Luxury Brand Management
Class of 2016-2017

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Discovering the Luxury Industry in Hong Kong

By Pawel Zawisza, MBA in International Luxury Brand Management student 2013-2014, Poland

Time passes very quickly in the MBA program and before we knew it was March, meaning our trip to Hong Kong and Dubai would take place shortly. The trips have been prepared as a way for us to familiarize ourselves with two important markets for luxury. We were supposed to interact with numerous industry participants and if lucky – hear they would consider people like us for job opportunities!

Our first stop was Hong Kong, which, before 1997, was a British colony. Even today the British influence is very well-known, and the city has a distinct character, much different than that of Mainland China or other former colonies, such as Portuguese Macau. Politically the city operates as a Special Administrative Region, the SAR, and functions under ‘one country, two systems’ principle.

Our group stayed in Hong Kong for 8 days, during which we met over 40 individuals from all different sectors of the industry. Richemont group presented us with an overview of the luxury watch market, since Hong Kong is the world’s largest market for watches, a fact which became evident the moment we started noticing dozens of watch stores on each corner of the city. We also had a pleasure to tour Chanel’s boutique located in Prince’s building – the second Chanel boutique in the world, opened in 1979!

During the second day we learned more about the ESSEC community in the city – all together (MBA & Grand École students) the alumni number more than 200! This creates a great environment in which people can network and support each other.

Some meetings had a very technical aspect – The LVMH Vice President for Fashion gave a presentation about the way to structure business partnerships in the region, with some operations done under a joint venture, franchising, etc. The next day we were given a very detailed overview of L’Oréal Travel Retail division with numbers, numbers, and more numbers (which I personally enjoyed greatly!).

The most memorable conference in Hong Kong took part on the last day, in the Asia Pacific offices of Kering. With more than 13 speakers, this was by far the longest, but also the most informative of all the conferences. Each speaker represented a different brand and they talked about different aspects of managing a luxury brand using their brand as an example i.e. we learned about digital advertising and customer engagement online at Boucheron; the importance of superior customer retail service in Alexander McQueen; how visual merchandising was done at Bottega Veneta, etc.

One cannot talk about Hong Kong without mentioning the food! Over the 8 days we had a chance to sample local delicacies, some of us multiple times! Dim sum, egg tart, mango pudding – they never taste as good as in Hong Kong! With full stomachs we boarded the plane and headed to Dubai!

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Opening up the Treasure box at the Hermès Museum

By Min-Yu Chen, MBA in International Luxury Brand Management 2013-2014, Taiwan

Office of Emile Hermès
Photo by M. Guy Lucas de Peslouan
Our class was very privileged this year to be able to visit the Hermès Museum, which is normally only open to Hermès designers and VIP clients. Located on the second floor of the repair studio next to the Faubourg Saint-Honoré store, we were greeted by Mme Stéphane Laverrière, a conservator, who turned out to be full of fascinating stories about the history of Hermès and the artifacts on display in the museum.

The museum is a family collection started by Emile Hermès, the grandson of the founder, Thierry Hermès. Emile started this collection in 1883 when he was 12 years old, saving up all his pocket money to buy an antique, cream-colored cane that was manufactured in 1801. The special aspect of this cane was the green silk parasol hidden inside, which Emile immediately identified as a timeless piece due to its clever design and function. These were the types of artifacts that we saw in the museum, with some of the oldest dating to 2500 B.C and originating from different countries across all continents in the world.

Office of Emile Hermès
Photo by M. Guy Lucas de Peslouan
The three themes of the collection are horses or equestrian culture, art, and travel & carriages, all of which are very much a part of Hermès’ roots. The objects are so much alive that they bring new ideas and inspiration for Hermès craftsmen, and as the company paves its path forward, it often refers back to these inspirational objects. We were shown many unique pieces such as Japanese saddles and stirrups, leopard skin saddles from the Middle East, a miniature Hermès bag from the 1950s, traveling trunks meant to hold an entire tea set, a thick album of silk samples, and even a miniature carriage set made of thousands of tiny rolls of paper, crafted at the end of the 18th century by nuns as a way to pass their time.

An hour was much too short, as there were still many treasures to discover and explore, but within that hour we learned and understood much more about Hermès’ culture that we would ever have imagined. 

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Boutique Internship at Dior

By Maya Kvaratskhelia, MBA in International Luxury Brand Management 2013-2014, Georiga/Russia

The MBA in International Luxury Brand Management provides every student with a chance to do a one week boutique internship to get a real life, hands-on experience in luxury brand retail. At least two months before the internship begins, the Director of Career Counseling conducts a one-to-one interview with each student to determine their sphere of interest within the luxury industry. Afterwards, the students' field of interest is matched as accurately as possible with the brand that operates its core business activities in that field. In my case, since I am interested in fashion and accessories, I was placed in a luxury brand whose core activities are in fashion & accessories.

Over the past few years, key luxury market players have immensely expanded their business activities throughout the world, either through directly operated stores or through partnerships with local retailers. The biggest luxury brands try to expand through directly operated stores whenever possible, as this allows them to ensure the consistency of the brand’s image across the retail network and to maintain high quality customer service. Despite the high fixed costs associated with direct operations, the profitability increases over a longer time period.

It’s no surprise that retail plays a significant role in a brand’s success. Retail is where direct contact with the customer takes place, which allows the customer to have a sensory experience in the brand’s universe. It allows the brand to obtain a profound understanding of the client and to formulate strategies aligned with the client’s reality. The key role of retail has been repeatedly emphasized throughout our classes and conferences we have attended, so I was really curious to experience the retail work environment first hand.

Ten MBA Luxe students, including myself, had an opportunity to do an internship at Dior. We had one day of training at Dior Academy to learn about the brand, the founder, and the inspirational story behind every product creation. Afterwards, each of us was placed in a different store to work in different product category departments. Dior is more than a fashion brand; its diversified product portfolio makes it a lifestyle brand offering customers a 360° brand experience through apparel, accessories, shoes, high jewelry & watches, Dior Homme, and Baby Dior collections.

I was placed in the leather goods & accessories department of the Galeries Lafayette boutique. The first day of my internship was very exciting and intense at the same time, as I had never worked in a luxury retail store before and had to absorb a great deal of information quickly and effectively. My day started with a tour around the apparel and high jewelry & watches, and ended with the accessories department. I had the pleasure of working with the professional team of Dior, who were extremely open and helpful in explaining and teaching me different aspects of their daily tasks. During the first two days I basically observed and shadowed the sales advisers as they served clients throughout the day. As the Galeries Lafayette is a tourist destination, the clientele of the Dior boutique is extremely diverse. This diversity and high foot traffic make for a fast-paced work environment that is both demanding and exciting. I had a chance to observe customer behavior of different nationalities including Russians, French, Chinese, Arab countries, and so on.

During that week, I became aware of how important it is to have a feel for the product to better serve the client. Developing a feel for the product means knowing the details of the different materials used in its creation in order to describe its benefits and functionality, knowing the history and inspiration behind every piece to spark the “dream factor,” knowing the length and depth of the assortment in stock to respond quickly to customer requests and to know what to offer, learning the prices of every single product by heart to reduce response time, etc. I tackled almost every single aspect of daily operations including: opening and closing the store, arranging the stock, processing payments, dealing with after-sales, learning the art of packaging, and even cleaning the product display cases several times per day.

Although one week is quite short, this internship really enabled me to have a better idea of what the real retail workplace is like and what I want to do in the future. I think knowing the client is very important and the best way to enhance your knowledge about them is through direct interaction. My week-long internship was full of activity and I couldn’t have wished for a better opportunity than working at the Dior boutique in Galeries Lafayette.

Friday, April 4, 2014

Where are they now? An interview with alumnus Sienna Liang ‘13

Where does an MBA in International Luxury Brand Management take you? We followed up with a recent graduate to see where she is 7 months after finishing her MBA.

Sienna Liang, class of 2013, Boutique Manager at Piaget in Dubai, shares her experience:

1) What drew you to work in the luxury field and study at ESSEC's MBA in International Luxury Brand Management?

Passion. Similarly to most of the ESSEC MBA Luxe participants, I could say the main reason I chose to work in the luxury field is my passion for the luxury jewellery sector. Being a gemologist myself, I would like to work for the best luxury jewellery & watches brand, which would allow me to discover and explore the most beautiful gem stones. I also love the dynamism and the challenge of this industry.

Why ESSEC? ESSEC is famous for training managers in the luxury industry. The MBA programme is like a diamond itself, covering various facets in the luxury industry including fashion, jewellery & watches, automobile, beauty cosmetics, wine & spirits, etc. What makes it shine like a diamond is the extensive network it carries in the luxury industry. I particularly enjoyed all the opportunities to attend the presentations and talks by the senior executives in the luxury industry.

2) Could you describe your career path after ESSEC? What is your current role and responsibilities?

Upon my graduation, I was lucky to receive a few offers from companies in different locations. I chose the Boutique Manager position for Piaget in Dubai. I was responsible for the opening of the new Piaget boutique in the Dubai Mall.

My responsibilities include: all the operational activities of the boutique, i.e. motivating and managing the team to exceed sales target and client expectations; training them about new product knowledge and customer service; monthly reporting and forecasting for sales, stocks and different KPIs; drafting action plans for business development; visual merchandising; working closely with the marketing department for events; ensuring that Richemont Group procedures and policies are closely followed at a boutique level; recruitment of new staff, etc…

3) Was there anything in particular about the MBA in International Luxury Brand Management that helped prepare you for your career path or qualify you for your current position?

Apart from all the necessary skills and valuable knowledge I have gained from my MBA Luxe programme, I found the field trips to Hong Kong, Dubai and Milan were the most valuable part for me. Listening to advice from CEOs and senior executives in the industry reinforced my decision to pursue my career in retail management upon graduation. Knowing exactly what I wanted to do from the beginning and the exact sector I wanted to enter really helped me to work hard to meet the requirements for the jobs I wanted.

4) What advice would you give to current students in the program?

Be open minded when you choose your career path after the MBA programme. Don't narrow your mind to choose a particular role or sector. Most of the time, entering one door will open another door for you. Remember to keep in touch with all the contacts you meet during the programme, especially if they are from the companies you are interested in working for. Always do better than necessary to exceed their expectation if you get the chance for an interview.

And most importantly, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Be passionate, be confident and be prepared, these will help you create the highest expression of your talent and will help you to shine through in every interview.

Download the brochure for the MBA in International Luxury Brand Management

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Boutique Internship at Estée Lauder

By Devika Malhotra, MBA in International Luxury Brand Management 2013-2014, India

A retail internship; staying on our feet for 8 hours, attending to clients from all over the world, speaking their language, studying and SELLING a luxury brand’s products. All these tasks piled into a single week. While it seemed exciting, it seemed a little bit confusing and daunting as well. Everyone in our Luxury MBA class had different anticipations, expectations, hopes and fears. Retail was widely spoken about and we were all motivated to experience it for one week.

Two months ago, I had been told I’d be working at Estée Lauder at two different locations with heavy tourist traffic. Details such as timing, dress code, behavior, and expectations were all duly communicated shortly thereafter.

I had already worked in the sales division at Citibank and worked in retail at a jewelry store in Mumbai. My main objective was to experience the retail front end at busy locations, as well as to compare activities in these diverse segments. The week drew closer and the internship finally began. The store managers were an absolute delight to work for and they allowed me to experience the retail life at Estée Lauder boutiques to the greatest extent. I covered every single aspect of working in the boutique, from learning about the products, to looking after the stock, accounting for newly arrived stock, opening and closing the store, tracking sales per day, and even cleaning the store shelves promptly every few hours. The store manager allowed me to sit for one of the famous Estée Lauder experience treatments so that I could appreciate the brand and its products before I sold them.

This week allowed me to compare and contrast my two very experiences of selling jewelry and selling beauty and cosmetics. I wouldn’t be able to choose between them, but I can certainly say they were vastly different, yet very interesting. While jewelry requires prolonged time and conversation to gain the trust of the customer, cosmetics primarily require brand awareness. Most customers were loyal clients who entered the store with a purpose and bought the product they needed. Products such as fragrances, however, were easier to sell to a new customer with little previous knowledge of the product.

After the week came to an end, everyone in class reported diverse experiences. Some loved it and wished they could have stayed on the floor forever, while others determined they weren’t interested in working in retail. As for me, this experience gave me new insight into retail, particularly in an exuberant, fast-moving store with the opportunity to interact with a number of tourists over a single week. I wouldn’t have liked it any other way and thoroughly enjoyed my one week on the floor. Learning from various sales associates, interacting with multi-national clients, and endorsing a brand to the fullest created an extraordinary experience at Estée Lauder.