Hands-on experience gives boss the edge

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 12 July, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 12 July, 2008, 12:00am

Wolfram Hail grew up helping out in his family's retail store in the German town of Heidenheim. Little did he know how this would prepare him for a career with some of the biggest names in fashion.

After finishing an MBA, he continued his career at major stores in German cities, initially making more money than many of his fellow graduates, who pursued jobs in banking and finance. He went on to work in Japan, Canada and America.

'Traditionally, many people don't consider retail a career,' Mr Hail said. 'So it's always a challenge for us to make sure that you can have a career in this business.

'Everything I've done all my life has been centred around retail and different aspects of it. If you are in your mid-20s, and you have to manage 200 or 300 people, it's a big responsibility, but it helped me and helps me today.'

This hands-on experience gave Mr Hail, who worked for 10 years as global retail director of fashion company Hugo Boss before joining Esprit, a well-rounded understanding of the industry that goes from the shop floor to the boardroom.

His knowledge covers essentials such as building store environments, familiarisation with products and managing teams of people, with the resolute attention to detail that ensures that the stores are 'exciting' and not just 'plain boring'.

Mr Hail stressed that employees could follow a serious career in retail, if they became aware of its underlying professionalism and the need to challenge themselves every step of the way.

With a management vision that aims to inspire creative growth within the group, he leads by example. And building an environment that rewards global talent is an important part of his plans.

'One of my plans is to marry east and west,' Mr Hail said. 'The group employs people from all over the world. This ensures that we nurture the global aspirations we have as a brand. There are bound to be management clashes though. In Europe, for example, subordinates never have a problem challenging their bosses. Whereas in Asia, that's rather unusual.

'But we believe in trying to promote people. People can move up in the company.'