Victoria's Secret uses science and art to sell

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NEW YORK -- Delivering value to customers is the way to conversion, said Mark Giresi, executive vice president at Limited Brands Inc., at the National Retail Federation's annual show Jan. 17.

After an upbeat video of Limited Brands' Victoria's Secret models on the catwalk, Mr. Giresi shared the secret to Victoria's Secret's art and science of converting customers.

"While product is critical to our growth, it's only one part of the equation," he told retail delegates at the show. "It's more than just quality of product - we think of this as the value equation, which is combining quality with service, with experience and keeping a competitive price."

One Victoria's Secret store manager increased sales by focusing on customer service, rather than on higher transactions. Because she increased her staff during busy hours, she increased transactions and saw an increase in $124,000 in sales. Mr. Giresi attributed this to her focus on conversion rather than on dollars per transaction.

"The average dollar sale of a person who walks out with nothing is zero," he said.

But building a solid brand is not just a science, according to Mr. Giresi. Retail is also an art form.

For instance, Victoria's Secret focuses on the emotional response of the customer through merchandising the stores and making them inviting to customers. The lingerie brand designed all its stores with a pink theme to appeal to its core demographic - the sexy, sophisticated woman.

Mr. Giresi said building brands, talent and capability is the key to conversion and this comes through teaching, testing and trust.

"Talking about results is important, but understanding the right behavior is the key to driving results," he said.

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