Iconic American lifestyle brand Ralph Lauren has had a presence in Canada for decades, and the company is in expansion mode as it opens several stores this year. Industry professional Georgi Gvakharia is the Country Manager for Ralph Lauren in Canada and provided answers to some questions about how he got into the industry and what makes Ralph Lauren different.
Ralph Lauren is currently hiring for several positions in Canada, including an Assistant Manager for the Polo Factory Store at Vaughan Mills near Toronto which opens December 11, a General Manager position in Winnipeg, and an Assistant Manager position at Tsawwassen Mills near Vancouver. To apply and for more information, contact Suzanne Sears at Luxury Careers Canada. Luxury Careers Canada has launched as part of Best Retail Careers International Inc. Employers can submit their jobs here.
Q&A with Georgi Gvakharia:
RI: How did your career in retail begin?
GG: Much like most of the people who immigrate to Canada from all over the world with various degrees and diplomas I wasn’t able to pursue in Canada the industry I’ve spent years studying and training for.
My other two big passions were fashion and business, so it was almost organic to start my career in the Retail industry. The retail industry offers a diverse and unique career path where you could work for some of the world’s most recognizable brands and I was very fortunate to be able to work for some of the best global brands throughout my career. I’m also very competitive and a bit of an adrenaline junkie so naturally retail offed me a lot of room to satisfy my competitive edge. I love and I’m very passionate about my work, outside of managing the company’s core business strategies and operations in Canada as a whole developing the next generation of leaders is what brings me a lot of joy and satisfaction day in and day out.
RI: You have been with Ralph Lauren for a significant part of your career. What is it about this brand that keeps you engaged with them?
GG: There are so many amazing things which come to my mind, Ralph Lauren is an iconic lifestyle brand. Ralph Lauren isn’t just an apparel brand, we design, produce and market authentic apparel for men, women and kids, home product, accessories, fragrance, so for someone passionate about fashion to be able to work with a range of product categories. Teamwork and collaboration are in my opinion some of the company’s biggest strengths. Ralph Lauren is focused on the culture of learning and the company provides employees on all levels with a lot of opportunities to learn skills from their peers and mentors. Philanthropic initiatives such as Pink Pony – Fight Against Cancer, focusing on social responsibility programs and promoting diversity and inclusion is big part of the company culture for me personally. It makes Ralph Lauren a very attractive brand to work for, and I feel a deeper personal connection that I haven’t experienced with any of the other brands where I worked for during my 20+ years in retail industry.
RI: What are the unique challenges running a retail organization across Canada during Covid?
GG: Outside of the obvious travel and social distancing restrictions, the biggest hurdle is the increasing amount of unemployed Canadians. The financial impact of the pandemic on Canadian households is huge and the residual effect is on how Canadians spend their money. In addition, the retail industry has also been impacted by the loss of international and domestic travel. It’s likely to be a very volatile year for many industries including retail.
RI: What do you think luxury retailers have to do to maintain foot traffic going forward?
GG: Globally, most of the retailers had seen a steady decline in foot traffic over past few years. On a flip side we know that even though more than 80% of our customers still shop at brick and mortar, personally I think the most important piece here would be ensuring that we provide an exceptional level of in store experience to every customer who walks into our stores. That starts with investing in hiring and training all of your brand ambassadors from front line sales consultants to the store directors, field and corporate leaders.
Digital presence is also critical. In-store events, partnership with celebrities and influencers, use of social media, embracing digital technology, creating deep consumer connection with the brand will definitely drive more traffic.
RI: What are the biggest staffing challenges you face this season and the next quarters in 2021?
GG: The key challenges luxury brands face this season and the next quarters in 2021 are not very different from the staffing challenges luxury brands in Canada have been experiencing in the past five years.
The luxury retail landscape has been dramatically increasing in Canada over the past 5-8 years with a lot of new luxury brands entering our market. Nordstrom, Saks Fifth Avenue, and multiple luxury mono brands entered the Canadian Market in a very short period of time, attracting and keeping top talent became increasingly difficult.
It’s simply a matter of the talent supply and demand. The pool of top producers or great leaders with a proven successful track record in the luxury market is significantly smaller than the demand.
I have a very strong point of view on this, brands need to stop chasing the top talent and focus on investing in developing the talent they have. Of course we would have to hire from outside now and then, but we all need to do a better job on developing and secession planning our bench.
Finding that diamond in the rough and developing into your next superstar will be way more rewarding for both brand and your internal talent, by far the best investment brands will benefit from in a long term.
Last month we announced the three Management positions at Ralph Lauren’s Factory Stores in suburban Toronto, Winnipeg, and suburban Vancouver. [See the job postings]
Retailers looking to post positions with Luxury Careers Canada may also contact Suzanne Sears or Craig Patterson at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Retail Insider has partnered with Luxury Careers Canada to support the industry. For more information, contact Craig Patterson at: email@example.com