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The SMCP group creates a training course to revive the fashion sales profession

By Julia Garel


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In-store salesperson. Image: Pexels

For several years now, recruiters have been struggling to find their future salespeople and managers. Professionals in the retail sector faced with this situation, are now addressing the issue. Take the SMCP group, the parent company of the ready-to-wear brands Sandro, Maje, Claudie Pierlot and Fursac, which is launching its own training course with which it aims to revive the job of sales consultant.

Focused on the accessible luxury segment, the SMCP group's brand shops are located throughout the world, from Hong Kong to New York, via Paris and Shanghai. This distribution network includes more than 1,600 points of sale and over 6,000 employees. But like many other companies in the apparel sector, the French group is facing issues when it comes to recruitment.

"Attracting people who want to make a career in retail poses a real challenge for us," Christelle Sanchez, head of diversity and inclusion at SMCP, explains. This problem of a shortage of candidates has led the apparel group to reflect on the issue.

”Go and find people who might not dare come to us themselves”

The answer was found during a hackathon organised by the French company at the end of November 2021 and attended by 31 volunteer participants. To respond to the issue raised during the event, namely "how to encourage careers in retail in the face of CSR challenges", the two winning teams suggested the creation of a training academy specific to the SMCP group.

As Sanchez explains, the idea was "to go and find people who might not dare come to us, or who would find themselves at a distance from the employment market because of something that happened during their career, or because they simply do not fit into the classic school framework". This concept gave rise to the "SMCP Retail Lab", of which the first class will start on January 30, 2023.

In order to set up this training programme, the 12 members of the project team - made up of experts from different parts of the group as well as participants in the hackathon - developed a pilot project based on the job of sales advisor, and adding the skills required to face the future.

"We want to highlight the value of this job," Sanchez says. "Most people think that it is easy. But it is a very complex job because you are dealing with people that you don't know on a daily basis. You have to know how to communicate, determine and understand the personality of clients, propose silhouettes, etc. More and more we are going to need skills that are not yet offered in the training courses, omnichannel skills, knowledge of new consumption modes, and everything that concerns CSR in general.

Offered as a work-study programme in Paris, the course will provide apprentices with a recognised certification thanks to partnerships with Ema Sup Paris, a school specialising in the luxury and beauty professions, and fashion school Institut Français de la Mode (IFM). The programme will consist of 480 hours of classes spread out over one year and primarily take place at Ema Sup's premises, at rue de Charonne, in Paris' 11th arrondissement. The company experience days will be with the group's brands.

The first 24 apprentices will follow a training course for omnichannel sales advisors, the content of which has been created to measure. Based on a course offered by the specialised training centre, it is enriched by seminars held at the Institut Français de la Mode that are aimed at providing knowledge on fashion culture, on the product and on new consumption patterns with an emphasis on CSR issues. In addition, capsule collections created by SMCP, led by the group's internal staff on various themes such as: visual merchandising and clientelling will be created.

As a novice in the field of certification training centres, SMCP had to start from scratch to develop the project. The work carried out by the dozen or so people involved consisted notably of creating an innovative recruitment pathway, quite different from those usually put in place by the fashion group.

” "We tried to set up a sourcing system that was intended to be disruptive.”

Romain Chazette, Talent Acquisition Manager at SMCP Group group.

Romain Chazette, talent acquisition Manager at the SMCP Group, says: "It was very clear to us that we weren't going to offer a classic candidate pathway because we wanted to address a different candidate profile. We therefore tried to set up a sourcing gateway that was intended to be disruptive. We wanted to test new recruitment channels and that's how we came to use social networks that are not dedicated to professionals, such as Instagram, Snapchat, Tiktok, Facebook or Spotify. We set up sponsorship campaigns to promote the launch of the training programme."

Following this campaign, the recruitment of candidates has been carried out in the following way: inviting interested individuals to webinars to present the content of the training programme, followed by a selection event to be held on 6 January 2023 in the Paris showroom of the Maje brand. The event will include five fun workshops.

But where the team at SMCP intends to make the real difference is in the evaluation of the candidates. The selection event is intended to be "completely inclusive", head of diversity and inclusion Sanchez explains: "We don't ask for a CV or particular experience level. We are just going to assess the candidates based on their motivation and fashion skills. To achieve this, we really want to create a sense of togetherness, trust and fun, so that each person present feels free to show their personality, what makes them different. We want it to be something really different. The only selection rule is that you have to be over 18. Apart from that, all individuals are welcome. All of this is part of the CSR challenge. We want to find all the people who are interested in working for us, regardless of their background and the life they may have had before.

After this first batch of apprentices has completed the programme, SMCP will not close the door on the creation of other learning paths and Sanchez mentions internal training modules inspired by this course in particular. "Courses to continue to develop our best talents, to make them want to stay with us," she says, and also mentions the question of the company territory and the international market. In other words, this is only the start of the SMCP Retail Lab.

This article was originally published on FashionUnited.FR. Translating and editing into English: Veerle Versteeg.