Retail in Asia

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INTERVIEW with Daniel Mayran : Luxury is in the white glove service


For those that value it, a true luxury experience starts at the doorstep of a store. Behind heavy golden doors, a young employee in a black suit opens the door for you.

The staff wear white gloves while displaying items. Beautiful packaging, too, adds to the pampering experience of shopping at a luxury retailer.

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These little details all add up to create customers’ feelings toward a brand. Store staff, especially, play a pivotal role in creating a high-end impression.

The Luxury Business Institute’s launch of the e-learning course “Luxury Attitude Academy” last month raises questions about whether the right attitudes for luxury brand staff can be taught online, and whether staff training even matters in the online shopping era.

Daniel Mayran, the president of Bluebell Korea and the Luxury Business Institute, sat down with the Korea JoongAng Daily to answer these questions.

Since 2002, Mayran has served as the president of Bluebell Korea, an agency that helps the local duty-free businesses of luxury brands. He founded the Luxury Business Institute, which creates educational courses for luxury brand staff in storekeeping and brand management, in 2009. It started in Korea but now has offices in China, Hong Kong and Paris. The LBI offers its services to high-profile brands like Gucci, Hermes and Burberry.

Korea JoongAng Daily : Consumers perceive brand experiences with their body and the interactions they have at stores. How do you instill this in an online course?

Daniel : Our online courses are short movies, with actors in them for certain scenarios. It basically comes in 12 episodes that convey different lessons and messages. And for certain courses, we schedule room training as well.

As you said, e-learning cannot teach everything in luxury, but it is an effective complementary tool. The videos also present well-known experts in the luxury and hospitality fields, like the HR head of Louis Vuitton Asia, to give advice and know-how for the situations in each episode.

Korea JoongAng Daily : What motivated you to start the Luxury Business Institute in Korea?

Daniel : Luxury is not just an expensive product – they are works by exceptional artisans, and therefore they must be presented in an exceptional way. So when it comes to where and how a product of luxury is emphasized, there are rules to follow in marketing and management.

I considered the Korean market as mature enough to receive this type of training. Here, we have people that understand what luxury is and have good knowledge in fashion. We recently started business in Shanghai and Beijing. Everything LBI does starts from the Korean office; it is like a test bed to try new curriculum and products.

Korea JoongAng Daily : China has a larger market in size, but you launched courses there much later. Why is that?

Daniel : First of all, I was based in Korea. Secondly, with every sort of business you have to go step by step, and I thought if we succeed in Korea, we can start in China as well. China has a less mature market for luxury than Korea.

There is a conflict in the definition of luxury in Europe and Asia. In Europe, luxury is what is exceptional. In Asia, especially in China, luxury is what is expensive. In Korea, it was much easier to work on that perspective because people already understand – yes, they think it is expensive but they also think it’s exceptional and unique.

Korea JoongAng Daily : A lot of luxury brands are pulling out from Cheongdam (which once had a street packed with large luxury stores) – is this a sign of the local luxury market failing?

Daniel : I will have to disagree. It’s true there are some brands that left. Take Hermes as an example: people do not go to Hermes because it’s there, but because they wanted to buy something from it in the first place. And in the end, a lot of brands seem to stay in Cheongdam. Louis Vuitton is spending a lot of money rebuilding its store there, and Chanel is building a flagship store.

Behind that is the rise of ecommerce – it is pushing brands to improve their image even more and Cheongdam stores are a reference point, like Burberry’s flagship store (opened in 2015).

People now know more about brands and products through the internet but when it comes to luxury brands, at the end of the day, you will come to the store to look at it with your own eyes. The better you train staff for good quality service and selling skills, the more customer will buy – if not the store, through the internet.

Another positive sign is the return of Chinese tourists. I do not see the Korean market immediately getting better in one or two years, but it will improve.

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Korea JoongAng Daily : What other changes do you see coming in the luxury industry?

Daniel : Like every other market, luxury is moving. We see new categories emerge. One example are leisure brands like lululemon starting to move into the range of luxury.

Another phenomenon, although Korea is not at the forefront, is sustainability.

Luxury brands are dramatically changing their vision in terms of fashion, meaning they are starting to reconsider if they should create goods with materials like crocodile leather. One symposium held for luxury brands this year dedicated a half [of its sessions] to sustainability. LVMH Group already has a group dedicated to that mission.


*Bluebell is the owner of Retail in Asia