Retail people - Rising star's determination to put Sephora on the map

Sephora is a relatively new company that claims to have an innovative and youthful outlook. So it is no surprise that staff, even at store management level, tend to be aged under 30.

Perhaps Sephora's youngest rising star is 26-year-old Sandrine Jacquiau, who took the post of store director at Sephora's newly-opened London flagship in Islington last month.

Previously a department manager at the massive Champs Elysees Sephora store in Paris, Jacquiau's team leadership skills and drive to boost sales got her noticed by head office. So competently did she manage her team of 40 fragrance advisers and grasp the philosophy and commercial objectives of the LVHM-owned beauty retailer, she was deemed the best candidate to take on the first central London store.

Although only an eighth of the size of the Champs Elysees store, the 200 sq m north London outlet is considered a cornerstone in Sephora's ambitious UK roll-out strategy.

Sephora UK general manager Lucy Mori says: 'Islington will be key in introducing the Sephora concept to the London market. It will also be used as a test store for us to try new ideas and products.'

She says that for these reasons, someone with Jacquiau's experience was essential for the role. 'The staff and customers will also benefit from Jacquiau's enthusiasm for the Sephora concept,' adds Mori.

After teaching English for two years, Jacquiau took a summer job with Sephora and 'instantly fell in love with selling'. She loved helping people find the right products, closing sales and seeing satisfied customers come back for more.

She is equally fired up about hitting daily sales targets, and at the London branch has introduced a sales motivation programme that is working well in France. Targets are assessed by the hour rather than by the day, and hitting targets becomes a 'game' rather than a challenge.

While Sephora's approach has always been to avoid the hard sell and let customers explore for themselves, the teams are expected to keep an eye on basket spend levels and conversion rates throughout the day. By offering to help and advise, sales can be increased.

Jacquiau says: 'So now, rather than wait until the end of the trading day to calculate whether or not the target has been hit, our system is to watch the figures hourly, as a team, to plot our progress.'

'That way it becomes more of a game. It gives staff a different mind set because we are participating in a joint effort, rather than me judging them at the end of the day.'

Incentives throughout the day - often in the form of prizes - help this process along.

Although much of the setting-up work was done at Islington before her arrival, Jacquiau is still busy ensuring the new team of 15 staff is settling in. She is responsible for everything that takes place on the shopfloor, from dealing with missing lightbulbs to managing stock levels.

Organising rotas and training sessions takes up a lot of her time. In-house Sephora coaching and brand training by the cosmetic and fragrance brand owners takes place once or twice a week. Sephora wants customers to experiment with product, so - for example - training on how to give 'flash makeovers' is given.

Staff enjoy the creative element of working on the shopfloor, says Jacquiau, particularly building gondola-end displays for seasonal promotions.

Jacquiau says her main strength is team building, and she is confident that she can hit the right balance between fun on the shopfloor and management control. 'If I've got something to say to one of my team, I will say it,' she says.

Jacquiau has set herself two clear goals this year. 'To make sure this store becomes known for the best customer service ever, so that people in England learn to love Sephora. And to beat the target for the year,' she adds quickly.