Evolution of the fashion industry told by a sales agent



Interview with Paolo Lambertini

Over three decades of experience in the fashion industry, matching the needs of various companies to those of retailers. Paolo Lambertini is a sales agent who has been working with different brands for many years and, through his business, has seen at first-hand the evolution of the shirt industry and furthermore of the whole fashion scene. Let’s find out with Paolo Lambertini how the industry has changed over the years and what are the future prospects of both, small boutiques and e-commerce and how he, as a sales agent, has had to adabt to the new circumstances.

Tell us about sales agent’s work and how many years have you been working as one?

A sales agent, until recently, was a classic figure who connects traditional shopkeepers with a manufacturing companies or brands and tries to help both sides to fullfill their needs, keeping in mind the rules of the represented company and approach the market on these basis in order to create business. And me, I carry out this activity since 1981.

You’re an indipendent agent, can you tells us something about this choice and about the differences between indipendent and one-firm agents?

An indipendent agent works for many companies and offers the market a diverse and more interesting choice of products, which allows the agent to acquire a wider space in certain stores, and consequently obtain a larger turnover.

On the other hand one-firm agent has a contract with a single company, or even a single brand of that company, for which he or she works exclusively, of course gaining the honors and responsabilities this type of work requires, in the sense that as long as the brand is strong and the market requires it, the work of one-firm agent mostly consists in selecting customers, while when the brand is not required or it’s new, the work is directed towards scouting and searching for potential customers.

What are your experiences in the shirt industry?

My experiences and know-how in the shirt industry is of all respect, not only I frequent this industry since many years, but I also have specific experiences in various shirt companies that have gave me the opportunity, to gain knowledge on how to interpret the market in numerous ways and to become able to conclude sales or in the worst cases, decide not to conclude.

What is different in the fashion industry today and how much has the sales agent’s figure changed over the past years?

The fashion industry has undergone a revolution, in my opinion, to a point of no return. I’ll explain myself better, at the end of the 80s and during the 90s the first supermarkets, shopping malls and districts appeared and the traditional boutiques suffered their first kick back, seeing a substantial portion of their revenue gone to these new realities. Next, the end of the 90s and the beginning of the new millennium brought the outlets, where a customer could purchase directly from the supplier, which became a competitor for itself, these trade policies of several companies where based exclusively on the profit, without thinking about the impact of this choice, therefore a second kick back that cut the frequent customers of the traditional boutiques to half. I should add that in the past 15 years there have been some remarkable changes in the costume that has changed certain rules regarding clothing, such as wearing suit and tie is not as indispensable as it was in the past, even in management or institutional roles. Today, instead, internet and e-commerce are changing the customers’ habits and the overall approach to consumption of products, the users sail in a sea of offers 360 degrees and men’s shirts are a part of this context.

There’s no need to say that the figure of sales agent survives these changes, thanks to the new approach to this work that has become more entrepreneurial, with greater investments and the need to create complete showrooms for the clients that remain, expanding the offer to even more refined products and accessories, not even directly related to clothing.

What advice would you give to retailers to deal with the current market? On what aspects should they pay particular attention to?

Giving advice is not my forte, but as the beauty of life is that everyone interprets things in their own way according to one’s needs, I take a chance to state a hypothesis that shortly there will, unfortunately, be numerous further closures of traditional shops and boutiques, because of the economic situation that’s going on in our country (Italy) and especially in the fashion industry. I think we can defend ourselves in two ways: Firstly, by looking for collaborations with other companies that are willing to share the business risks with the traditional shopkeeper, who would become a retailer of the brand ina specific geographical area. Secondly, those who are able to give an extremely personal and genuine connotation to their boutiques, living it firsthand, communicating and transmitting their personality to the customers through a careful selection of products that reflect their unique style and taste. A bit like what happened with big grocery stores that killed the small traditional shops, the survivors are those who are able to offer delights that large retail stores are unable to handle.

Unfortunately, this is all like a dog chasing its tail, attention is always paid more to the economic aspects, when instead we would need a relaunch and the courage to make new proposals and heavy investments, in a country, Italy, where everything is difficult, complicated and clumsy, for starters the negative example of those who govern us!

So in your opinion, what are the future prospects of the fashion industry and especially of the fashion online?

Regarding the future prospects of our industry, in a medium to short period of time I don’t see any positive changes, if not in the individual retailer level that encloses extremely personal and innovative proposals, in which you can sense the passion for what they do.

For the fashion online instead, statistical data tells that this trend is very positive, the changes of the costume have led to new habits with a global choice. I would say though that when the range is basically limitless, the risk of getting lost in the crowd could make it difficult for many users to select quality products. This is why a website like Kamiceria that combines the advantages of a traditional market and made in Italy products, in terms of selecting upstream providers based on the distinction of quality products by highly qualified and professional selectors, to create a wider choice than a normal shop could offer, especially for the foreign market, by showcasing a huge amount of Italian companies; great job, a considerable intuition!

Paolo Lambertini is a sales agent of REBEL CNS and represents for example men’s shirt companies like Ingram and Alea.