Confessions of a boutique retail assistant: One customer took three hours just to buy one item
Chinese New Year is a time when things get busy for fashion retail stores.
And for retail assistants, that's when the craziness begins.
Besides making sure that customers are happy when browsing and shopping, they also need to replenish stock on the shop floor.
Miss Charlene Mary Legaspi, 28, an assistant shop in-charge at Iora at Bugis Junction, tries to keep everything in perspective.
She says it's her job to help her customers find the right clothes, no matter what.
Once, a customer spent three hours browsing and trying on clothes in the fitting room.
Another customer tried every pants design in the store, but ended up not buying any.
"I feel sad because I felt I've served her well," says Miss Legaspi, who has been in the retail industry for seven years.
"(But) I did my best, so it is okay. I know if I do my best, they will return to us."
When asked about her fussiest customer, she recalls she had one who took the longest time to scrutinise every inch of an item.
"She could spot the tiniest faults that even we cannot see. She would ask to change it again and again," she says.
On another occasion, a customer took three hours to try on and check one item.
Says Miss Legaspi: "For the same design and size, she would ask us to take out many pieces for her to try on to see which fits her the best."
There are the shy ones, too, who prefer to hide rather than show off their features.
She says: "Some customers who are slightly plump think nothing will fit them. You have to find those that fit them so that they feel comfortable.
"Some want to hide their flabby arms, so we don't show them sleeveless tops, otherwise they will be angry."
There are also those who are too shy to try on certain clothes because they think the clothes are too "young" for them, Miss Legaspi adds.
As Bugis Junction is a popular spot with tourists, she gets her fair share of customers who cannot speak English. She says she has to resort to using sign language to communicate with them.
Besides the incentive of a yearly all-expenses-paid trip to nearby countries, she also gets three new matching outfits a month free of charge as a perk. The home-grown brand she works for requires its sales assistants to wear its clothes so they can be its ambassadors.
"We get to choose the items we like, but we have to take photos of ourselves in the outfits and get approval from the fashion stylist," she says.
A fashion expert will check whether the outfit is suitable for each of them based on their body shape, skin tone and height.
The brand by the family-run company designs clothes that cater to Asian women. It was started 17 years ago and has 10 outlets islandwide.
Like retail assistants from other shops, Miss Legaspi is paid a basic salary of just under $2,000, but earns commissions based on her sales performance.
In a good month, she can take home up to $3,000.
She has a personal target and a shop target to hit monthly, with the target varying from month to month.
In some months, Miss Legaspi is expected to sell more than 2,500 items. For example, during the Chinese New Year period, the target is 20 per cent more than in other months.
The response she gets from grateful customers keeps her going.
Some greet her when they bump into her at the MRT station and others have even brought homemade food for her to share with her colleagues.
Miss Legaspi also keeps in touch with some of them via Facebook and Whatsapp.
Many of them have also returned to her shop just to have her serve them.
She says: "Some of them say, 'Because you know my style, I come back to you. I like your service and I'll come back'.
"I feel very happy because my customers remember me."
"Some customers who are slightly plump think nothing will fit them... Some want to hide their flabby arms, so we don't show them sleeveless tops, otherwise they will be angry."
- Miss Charlene Mary Legaspi
SECRETS OF THE TRADE
1 Be honest. If the customer needs a bigger size, say so, so that they know that you are sincere in helping them find the perfect fit.
2 Make sure the customer has a lot of options to choose from. The more items they try on, the higher the likelihood of finding one she likes.
3 Treat the customers like your friend and make them feel comfortable with you.