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Special Issue
WWD Accessory issue 08/15/2011

The customer may be right, but there is so much room for things to go wrong. Here, five top shoe sellers reveal how they keep shoppers happy.

This story first appeared in the August 15, 2011 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

Abbey Askari: director of sales, Manolo Blahnik, New York


Top Tip: “I don’t push people to buy. If the shoe doesn’t look good on their feet I will tell them. People appreciate that. Also, never underestimate anyone that comes in. Somebody might look like a rag lady, but spends $20,000. A customer once had spots on her shirt and she left with $25,000 worth of shoes an hour later.”

Client Watch: “One shopper walked in with 10 rolling trunks full of alligator Hermès bags and bodyguards. She opened the trunks and was trying to match shoes to the bags.”

If the Shoe Fits: “A man called me a couple of months ago. He wanted to propose to his girlfriend using the blue pump from “Sex and the City.” We had champagne and flowers in the back and when he asked her to try the shoes on, the ring was inside.”

Gabriela Monteiro de Barros: saleswoman, Daslu, São Paulo, Brazil


Top Tip: “Always get to know your client and always offer more than what she expects to buy. Also, never underestimate or judge them for the way they look.”

Client Watch: “A bride-to-be came in and in one shot bought the wedding dress, the jewelry, clothes, shoes and wines for the bridal party and then fit it all on her private plane.”

If the Shoe Fits:
“I have one customer who comes in every year on Dec. 24th, at 2 p.m. when the stores closes — he buys incredible gifts for his whole family and friends.”

Jeffrey Kalinsky: founder, Jeffrey New York


Top Tip: “I don’t want the conversation to be driven by product, but driven by the interaction of two people. I want the experience to be fun, and if you focus on just the shoes or the bag, it’s not fun for anybody.”

Client Watch: “I’m willing to leave a customer alone, but I have such a service background that I want to be there to help. Without being annoying, I try to establish a connection with them where they will let me in to help.”

If the Shoe Fits: “Don’t sell somebody what they want, sell somebody what you want them to have — then you’ve made a customer who will come back.

Shana Rasnavad: saleswoman, On Pedder, Hong Kong

Top Tip: “A small VIP can turn into a big VIP as the years go by. She might only buy two to three pairs of shoes each season but if you stick with her and help to build her wardrobe you will see her transactions grow.”

Client Watch: “Our customers come from all over the world, which means we have to understand and respect their cultures. Some customers don’t like when you look them in the eye; some only want to work with a woman; some need their partner’s opinion for everything. We must be patient and understand the best way of working with them.”

If the Shoe Fits:
“A local Chinese customer will look through our photo book at the beginning of each season and say, ‘I want this, this, this and this.’ — including special edition merchandise, like a 40,000 [Hong Kong dollars, or $5,132] pair of Marie Antoinette Louboutins or the Nicholas Kirkwood for Rodarte boots. She doesn’t wear the special editions.”

Chris Yang: salesman, The Tannery, Cambridge, Mass.

Top Tip: “Be in control of the sale. You have to be the one telling the customer what they need and why. It’s not you’re job to decide if they can or can’t afford it. It’s your job to sell.”

Client Watch:
“I met a guy three years ago when he moved to Boston as a student. He bought eight pairs of Moncler shoes that day. To this point, he’s continued to bring in more clients on a regular basis — family, friends or anyone he meets.”

If the Shoe Fits:
“Once a Saudi Arabian prince came in and we shut down the whole store for him and his entourage. He bought everything for everybody. He bought shoes for his girlfriend, his brother and his security guards. I don’t remember how much he spent exactly, but it was a whole lot.”

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