On the elegant Via dei Pescioni in Florence (think New York City’s Fifth Avenue, or the Champs-Élysées in Paris) you’ll find some elegant clothing stores including Stefano Ricci, a magnet for stylish men from around the world.
This summer the store featured a sublime blazer: royal blue and finished with the utmost attention to detail. “Our clothing is 100% made in Italy, including the fabrics, which are silk, cashmere or purest cotton,” says manager Alessandro Ciucci.
The store, all hushed elegance with soaring ceilings and hand-made furniture, is the perfect showcase for these items including the jacket, which had a price to match (more about that later). And don’t bother to wait for the end of season for a deal: “Our clothing never goes on sale. A present is nice. A discount is not a present.”
Why is this inspiring for travel advisors – even if you are not in the market for a fabulous jacket? It’s because of the attitude of the company: nothing is too difficult, everything must be of the highest standard, and money can be the last concern.
The company keeps meticulous details on each customer. Each of the 68 Stefano Ricci store managers worldwide customizes their orders from head office, based on local tastes. To communicate with some of their most important customers, the website has Chinese and Russian versions.
In Florence, Ciucci will make hotel reservations for his clients when they are visiting, and he once boarded a train to personally deliver a suit to a waiting customer.
“Our philosophy is, when you have the trust of your client, you have the client in your hand,” Ricci told a group of visitors earlier this year. He and his staff do their jobs with their hearts, he added. “Not with our heads in the cash register.”
And he even collaborates with competitors. “We will call Prada and have them deliver a pair of shoes which will suit that client.”
So, what are the takeaways for travel advisors?
1) There are many clients for whom price is important but also others for whom it’s not the prime consideration.
2) You should add value (like the train story) by going beyond the typical ‘travel agent’ job by using your contacts and clout to make unforgettable experiences your clients simply can’t do on their own.
3) And you can collaborate with colleagues (like the Prada story), referring a client to them when they have a specialty you aren’t familiar with. I’ll bet Prada refers customers to Stefano Ricci too.
And so that’s how you get to sell a jacket for €6,000 (about Cdn$8,800).
Lynda Sinclair, CTM, is the Senior Vice-President – Leisure at Vision Travel Solutions, which has an ever-expanding and vibrant program for independent agents. With over 30 years in the Canadian retail travel industry, Lynda says she “lives and breathes what goes on at the front line.” She can be reached at email@example.com.