From Marton to Manager of Kate Sylvester

From one of the smallest towns in NZ, Marton (population 4,548), to store manager of one of the biggest fashion brands in NZ, Kate Sylvester (Wellington). 

“I came to Wellington one day with some CVs and handed them out. Kate Sylvester was the first one I went to because I just really respect the style. I’ve always loved her clothing. I just thought it would be a really nice place to work. And then I just hit it off with the manager there, Anna, and she was like ‘cool, you haven’t got any retail experience, that’s kind of bad, but I’ll give you a chance’. So I started as a casual... moved my way up through the company, and after two and a half years was made manager.”

“I’ve been so lucky that I started off in such a great store and a great brand straight away, so I feel very blessed about that. I’ve always dressed myself and my friends and I’ve always had an idea of what looks good. I love to be able to put things together and be like ‘cool put this on, and put this on’, and they [the customer] are kind of like ‘really?’ and I’m like ‘yup, put it on, it will look great’, and it just works. It’s really great to be able to help people. When you’re walking around feeling great you’re going to exude confidence, happiness. You just feel great and attract great people in your life.” 

Q: What advice would you give others in retail positions on how to provide good lasting customer service?

Bonnie: “I think being super natural is the most important thing, and being yourself all the time, not trying to be someone you’re not because otherwise they’re not going to be able to relate to you. We have people coming in that are quite intimidated by us for some reason. People are scared to come in. And it’s really bad because we’re all such normal, down to earth, natural people, so that’s our number one thing, we try to make you feel comfortable. And I don’t ever look at someone and think I’m better than them because they don’t wear the same clothes as me or they don’t dress in labels, it’s not important. I think that’s important, to treat everyone the same because everyone is the same.”

Q: Can it be frustrating if a customer tries on a lot of garments and doesn’t buy anything in the end? 

Bonnie: “...that’s the worst attitude to have, it’s not important at all. It’s about making connections with people and making them feel comfortable because more often than not they’ll come back anyway. Or even if they come to us and have good service they’ll tell someone else about it and they’ll come in as well.

Q: In a retail position is it important to genuinely love the brand you’re working for? Does a genuine love of the brand improve customer service and sales? 

Bonnie: “Absolutely. It is so important to be able to wear it, pull it off, and actually genuinely love it. I do think it’s so important for someone to love the brand. I guess I sell it so well because I truly love it. I love how it’s made, I love how it looks. I think customers can tell when you really like something or not. And I think when you’re wearing the clothes and you look good in them you’re a hell of a lot more believable. I truly love the brand. I love Kate Sylvester, she’s such an amazing intelligent woman and she’s really kept her integrity over the years. She hasn’t ever sold herself out. And she treats us [the staff] like we’re precious because we are precious, we’re the ones selling the clothing for her, we’re the ones that love it and are making her the money essentially so we get spoilt. That’s how it should be in any kind of clothing company really.”

Conversation with Kate Sylvester store manager Bonnie Wroe.