Retail Confessions: Gucci
"One lady from one of these gaggles of brunch gals had two glasses of champagne, but they were big pours. She didn't make it to the bathroom."
The Gucci store in Soho was originally conceived as a utopia sprung from the brain of former creative director Alessandro Michele. Salespeople were hired not because they could move product, but because they felt like a natural part of the environment, sort of a modern day beatnick coffee shop, where artists and cool people come together, except instead of folk musicians, special guests included Rihanna and A$AP Rocky, and instead of coffee, the store offered sparkling wine.
“They wanted it to kind of be this Gucci museum,” said a former salesperson. Staff weren’t paid by commission in the store’s early days. “Most of my day I spent having people come in and talking about the brand, the product, how their day was going. It was supposed to be this heightened level of luxury, more of a relaxed environment instead of having things in glass cases. Everything was out for you to touch and try.” The brand didn’t want young, aspirational clients to feel too intimidated to come in and shop.
Since opening in 2018, the store has become more like typical luxury stores, including the introduction of a commission-based pay structure. “I am an Alessandro lover through and through. That's why I was there,” the former employee said. “I think that once they realized that the store was in one of the most populated areas where the rent keeps going up, they started to get more numbers driven.”
With all the parties, things could get out of hand. But things could get out of hand at any point during the day, which seems to be what happens when you combine rich people, alcohol, and $45,000 handbags. Our full interview about what it was really like working in the store, edited and condensed for clarity, follows.
What was the Gucci clientele like?
You have the locals and the tourists. A couple who lived across the street would invite me over to their house when they were having parties on Saturday night. They had the most stunning closets filled with Birkins. It was the most incredible apartment I'd ever seen. They’d pop in to say hello to me. Sometimes they’d say, “I saw this in a magazine. Get that in for me and I'll come in and try it on.”
Did you develop strategies for closing sales as that became more important at the store?
A few trainings really helped me develop my skills. And one of them was to understand what kind of person was shopping with you and what their needs specifically were. Some people wanted a pair of earrings and maybe the earrings were $300, but they wanted to spend an hour with you, just talking. Then there’s the person who came in and was like, “I need this bag, just give me a gift receipt for it.” And didn't even want to leave their name. Especially because this store was commission-free for about four-and-a-half years, I would always say, “I don't want you to leave with this if you don't love it.” They might say, “You know what, I don't love it. I'm not going to go home with it.”
It's actually less work for me. I don't have to wrap it and ring it up. Returns were a big hassle. And sometimes, if they return something damaged, it ruins the relationship. Because you're like, “I can't return these shoes because your cat scratched them.”
How much would people spend?
The introductory client usually went for maybe a card case, a fragrance, a twilly, which are those long scarves, or a piece of silver jewelry. The aspirational client spent around $195 to $350. Maybe they're 16 years old, they're coming from Long Island with their best friend, it's their birthday tomorrow, and their parents gave them money to pick something out, and they picked out a little silver Gucci ring. But I also had clients who would come in and spend $60,000 in one sitting. I feel like the middle ground was around $1,500, only because that was what a lot of the shoes were priced at.
What was the most anyone ever spent with you?
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