THE REGULAR introduction of new consumer electronic products at affordable prices has certainly added momentum to the impressive pace of growth in the retail sector. These days, no style-conscious Hong Kong person would admit to being without the latest MP3 player, mobile phone or digital camera and, for many, each of these items is seen as a basic essential. Homes are being equipped with flat-screen TVs, video-game consoles and new computers, and renewed activity in the property market has even led to a surge in demand for the latest generation of household appliances. Fortress, a large chain that sells a wide range of electronic products, reported double-digit growth in sales revenue last year. Floor space was expanded at some of its stores, while other stores were relocated to better shopping areas. Teresa Pang, public relations manager for Fortress, said sales had been satisfactory thanks to the feel-good factor resulting from an improving economy and the increased number of tourists. 'The important thing is that people are feeling happier and are more willing to spend. At this time of year when they start to get out and about more, we usually see a rise in sales of portable products like digital cameras,' she said. In terms of general trends, Ms Pang noted that not only young people or new homeowners were flocking to stores. Middle-aged and elderly customers were also interested in the latest products and were keen to buy. Local residents still form the company's core customer base, but with so many mainland tourists shopping for electronic goods in Hong Kong, it has been important to cater for diverse tastes. For this reason, Fortress has held several recruitment days to strengthen its sales team. In order to serve the broad range of customers, potential recruits are expected to be passionate about the retail industry, experienced in store operations, sincere in their approach and have a basic knowledge of the key products. Reflecting overall strength in the sector, leading brand Sony has also been hiring staff and expanding its sales channels. These now include their own stores, call centres, online shopping and selling through dealers. Sony Corporation of Hong Kong's marketing manager Henry Lee said Hong Kong people were attracted to gadgets and new technology. 'With our strength in design and innovation, we were able to achieve continuous growth in sales revenue last year,' he said. 'This is despite strong competition in the market.' The company has been hiring fresh graduates and providing them with a structured training programme and opportunities to perform. Manpower needs, particularly for frontline salespeople and managers, are under review. Mr Lee said the individual traveller scheme for mainlanders visiting Hong Kong had definitely had a positive effect on business, and the opening of the Disneyland theme park in September should provide a further boost. 'As the economy improves, we expect to see balanced growth from both local customers and tourists,' he said. Wang Junzhou, general manager of mainland-backed Gome Home Appliances (HK), said the company has a sixth store opening soon, located in the new APM shopping mall in Kwun Tong. 'We started to operate here in 2003 and already have five stores. Our target is to have 20 by the first half of next year, since we believe the market is still a shopper's paradise for local residents and tourists,' said Mr Wang, who divides his time between Hong Kong, Guangzhou and Shenzhen. As Gome continues to expand, it will need to take on extra salespeople, he said. The ideal applicants would be those with customer service experience in the retail industry, while evidence of good business sense would be important for career advancement. Numbers Game (Retail / Wholesale) 813 positions advertised in January last year 1,129 positions advertised in February last year 1,041 positions advertised in March last year 889 positions advertised in January this year 889 positions advertised in February this year 1,028 positions advertised in March this year Key Players Operations director Senior sales manager Area sales manager District sales manager Senior store manager Store manager Assistant store manager Department sales supervisor Assistant department sales supervisor Senior sales representatives Sales representatives Distribution/logistics manager Information systems manager Market research statistician/analyst Marketing executive, consumer products Personnel officer Retail buyer JARGON Morning briefing A meeting for salespeople at retail stores before doors open to the public. Internal check Regular stocktaking of items in each outlet. Service check An evaluation of how well salespeople have provided specific services on a checklist. Display Newly launched products placed in shop windows and on shelves. Small digital Portable products such as mobile phones, digital cameras, PDAs and MP3 players. Slim panel A term for products such as LCD or plasma TVs. Gadgets Attractive new products that appeal to target buyers.