What would be the first thing that comes to mind when you hear the words “luxury retail’? Costly bags? Runway fashion? Or priceless pieces of jewellery?
Ronnie Ko (Class of 2022) has been working within retail management for different luxury brands for over a decade. Having been in the luxury market for so long, Ronnie decided to join the MBA programme in 2020. The reason for this brave move is because Ronnie believes that only by gaining a solid base of business knowledge will she be able to enhance her career. Let’s find out more about Ronnie’s story.
- Please share your background with us.
Luxury retail is not only about selling products but it is the complete package of delivering excellent services and experiences. As a store manager, my major duties are to define appropriate strategies for the store, to achieve KPIs in different areas based on the store’s positioning with reference to product assortment, store location and size, client profile and team mix. I also strive to develop talent within our team by nurturing them to achieve personal growth and to become the future’s leaders. Last but not the least [my final major duty as a store manager] is to ensure store operation efficiency all the time.
- Why did you choose to study the part-time MBA? And why at HKU?
Enrolling in MBA programme has been a thought for me in recent years. I considered whether it is relevant for my job and how far did I wish to go in my career and whether the working schedule could really fit into the study schedule. However, when COVID-19 broke out last year I started to think if I was competitive enough in the market. Do I have the ability to switch to other functions or even to switch to another industry in this challenging times? This definitely makes me more determined to study an MBA to further prepare myself for future, no matter if it’s a good one or a bad one. HKU is undoubtedly the ideal choice for MBA, not only because of the success of the programme itself but also the worldwide recognition of the university as a whole. Furthermore, the flexibility of the study mode, support of resources, and the number of word of mouth recommendations do make the programme even more desirable.
- With your extensive experience within the luxury retail industry, what kind of transformation do you think will happen within the industry?
The industry is now shaping into omnichannel meaning that no matter where the customers shops (from a desktop, mobile device, telephone or at a physical store), the channels are all connected and synchronised, leading to a seamless and integrated customer experience. As a result heavier tech elements will be infused to different business areas from operations, to all the customers’ touch points and product development. Products made from exotic skin or animal fur maybe considered luxurious in the past but now companies have started to develop innovative materials to replace them, echoing to the global trend of corporate social responsibility.
- Covid-19 has brought a huge impact to the world which is still affecting many industries. Would you mind sharing how Covid affects the luxury retail market?
Before COVID-19, tourist spending in retail stores contributed to at least 50% of the business in Hong Kong. The proportion will be even higher in some tourist driven locations like Canton Road so you can image how impactful it has been to the industry. The spending priority of the customers has also changed. They might look for items for special occasions, for work or for lifestyle in the past, but now these apparels seem to be less important because they seldom have the chances to use them at all. We do expect that luxury retail will recover as the desire for luxury products still exists. The market is just being interrupted and is now trying the best to pick itself up.
- Aside the challenges brought by Covid, are there any other challenges you have encountered as part of your role?
I would say people management would be the biggest challenge in my role. The world is changing quickly and customers are flooded with information. Their expectations are getting higher and their behaviour changes over time, so the team also has to be very agile to cope with the changes, both in the manner of serving customers and managing the store. Besides, having the empathy to understand the difficulties they are facing, as a store head I would also need to be inspirational and engaging to go through the challenges with them. Eventually they will have enough skillsets to evolve.
- Could you share us whether the HKU’s MBA programme has equipped you for the challenges you mentioned?
The HKU MBA is a 360 degree programme; it is not only about technical business knowledge but also a reflection of yourself to help you understand where you are in your life and career and what you need to do to take yourself to the next level. It also asks how we can better manage ourselves and ultimately influence the whole organisation as a great leader.
- Do you think the HKU’s MBA programme has expanded your network? If yes, in what ways?
Absolutely. Many classes are interactive and the atmosphere in the class is very engaging. There are many chances that you can connect with the other students through discussions and group projects where you can understand and learn from them. Given the strong community at the MBA programme, you can definitely build and expand your own network.
- Any advice you could give to someone who would like to join the luxury retail industry, given the challenging time now?
No matter under what situations it’s all about the experience we generate for the customers, and the emotional connection we develop with them. Be passionate about the brand and the fashion world because people love to hear all the stories and about the brand’s heritage. It’s the brand value and the DNA that retain our customers, strengthening the sustainability of the brand.
- Any advice you could give to an MBA aspirants who would like to use the MBA to enhance their career, or perhaps help move to another job?
Different people will have different initiatives for studying the MBA. Whatever the reason, as long as you can manage now, then go for it. Don’t wait until things have changed or you might regret it!