My family is an authorized distributor of Samsonite luggage in Hong Kong and the shop is located in Tsim Sha Tsui. It is in Central shopping district and almost all tourists visit there. The shop also distributes Kipling and European leather handbags and some international branded leather handbags, purses, key holders, etc.

My family business has been operated for more than 20 years in Hong Kong and over time I have seen many changes (and of course ups and down) in the past 10 years. Below I mention a few:

1) Consumers change – When I was in high school, there was definitely a lot less Chinese customers coming to shop in Hong Kong. There were many more international and Japanese tourists, so by that time I needed to speak English. But in the past several years, with the raising Chinese consumers powers, the majority of our sales comes from the Mainland Chinese visitors.

2) Sales pitch – To pitch Mainland Chinese customers, you need to know what is going on in China, their psychology and culture. The counterfeited goods are problematic in Mainland China and this has imposed bad purchasing psychology on them. Since we are an authorized distributor of Samsonite luggage, it is good that we can utilize Samsonite brand and it makes a lot easier for us to sell since the brand is internationally recognized and offers a lot of good selling points:

-100 years of history

-100% authentic and guaranteed product

-After-sales repair service in China retail stores

-International and product guarantee

Even though Mainland Chinese visitors are very much afraid of counterfeited goods, but after mentioning the above merits to them in the first pitch and showing them a wide ranges of product showcase, latest advertising signage and marketing materials, plus our authorized seller certificate, we do slowly gain their trust. What they see is what they get!

3) Remember you are not selling a product, but a service – Selling a product is different from service. Selling a product doesn’t involve customization, however, selling service involves so much more customisation. It takes longer time to close sales if you tailor a service to each customer. For product, there is no prefect product to fit each customer’s taste and but to close a sale you need to make customers feel like it does fit them very well!

The sales lady in my family retail store is experienced and has skill to convert customers with “50% and 50%” mind to make purchasing since she has been doing it for a long time (so when you are doing one thing everyday, and repeatedly years by years, it is like you know what to say when you go on a live-show). On most occasions, you need to lead the customers – when they are deciding between two products, you can say “the black luggage is a standard looking one, while the grey and green style luggage looks more unique and easy for you to distinguish!” In the critical moment of choosing one final product, you need to think from their shoes and product scenario, convince them and then close deal as quickly as possible (it’s not good to allow any moment of hesitation). Very often, customers will listen to you (by the way the customer finally decided the grey and green luggage instead of the black one)!

4) Effect of celebrity sponsorship 

Finding a popular and famous celebrity works if you want to give a quick boost to your brand (it is an expensive strategy). Given the Korean wave has been spreading into China starting from the past several years, Korean movie stars are so popular in the Greater China region (China, Hong Kong, and Taiwan), Samsonite luggage is now using Lee MinHo 李敏镐 to represent the brand in the Asia Pacific region in 2015. Since we put signage board with Lee MinHo’s image facing outside the shop, it does attract a lot of younger generation’s attention to look at our shop signage, come in, request and purchase the Samsonite bag sponsored by Lee MinHo.

5) Chinese customers like discount 打折 and you need to make them feel like it is already discounted – I think if you are doing a retail business and selling a product then you will understand what I mean and there are tricks to do – with some maths skill and playing around the cost, original price, and discounted price and per unit margin.

6) Some products are there to yield higher per unit margin, some products have less per unit margin but you still need to have both. Given today’s competitive business environment and consumers’ psychology, it becomes a norm for shops to purchase a variety of stocks to attract customers’ attention and at the same time customers like to visit a retail store with wider and a greater variety of options, so displaying more variety of stocks help us to grab customers’ eye balls from the shopping window to our store. At the same time, this increases their confidence to shop and create a better shopping experience since there are more things to look at.

There are a lot of observations and learning points as well such as good suppliers and employee relationship etc. Looking at my Dad and Mom, I have learned that doing business is not easy and business cycle always have ups and downs. But attitudes is the biggest learning point I learned from my dad and mom. It is important to stay optimistic, positive and being thankful. Positive energy is important in the shop and customers can feel that. Hardworking and persistency is another learning point, and last but not least, sometimes life may give you lemon instead of apple, but when you learn to make lemon instead of crying for an apple juice and starting to appreciate the lemon taste, you can make yourself more enjoyable and happier.