Watches of Switzerland unveiled plans last month for a new flagship store model that it claims will revolutionise not only its business but the watch industry as a whole.
The new store will open on London’s Regent Street in May next year and will be more akin to a department store than its current Watches of Switzerland store formats.
Spanning over three floors and 17,000 sq ft, the shop will be split into various sections. There will be a multibrand area in the basement of the building dedicated to its entry-level brands, and two floors above that will be totally dedicated to 13 watch brand shop in shops.
While the plans shared at a press conference gave no indication as to which brands will be part of the new shop, Aurum chief executive Justin Stead said that it is working closely with all of the brands it currently deals with and is confident of a strong line up in time for next year.
Stead said: “We represent the best in the industry, with the most important brands in the industry. We take our relationships with them extremely seriously. They believe, and we do, that London is ready for this kind of opportunity and that it will have global reverberations.”
Work has already started on the site of the store – 155 Regent Street – and while Aurum didn’t pin down an exact figure, it said that it will have invested tens of millions of pounds in to the new flagship by the time it opens its doors next spring.
When quizzed about why Aurum chose Regent Street over other prestigious London addresses, Stead said that it was a matter of size. “We can get a beautiful size that is clean and not difficult. We also think that Regent Street is the happening street in London.”
Stead said that the key to the store’s success is not just getting the look right, but about creating a new class of customer experience. The boutique will be kitted out with a VIP room, a repairs centre and even a restaurant that will be available to shoppers on request.
Other subtle touches are planned to ensure a smooth shopping experience, such as a team of concierge staff that will attend to the customers and sales staff. Concierge staff will be able to access each of the shop-in-shops on the ground and first floors by a hidden corridor that runs behind the spaces, allowing them to attend to each without having to cross the shop floor.
Events will also play a crucial role at the store, and Stead said that he expects watch brands will host London-based events at the Regent Street store.
He added: “We have 52 weeks of events planned so that every time a customer comes to the store they will see something different.”
Aurum has boasted in a brochure that once complete the store will be “Europe’s largest showroom devoted to luxury watches”. Stead said that the scale of the project only faced competition from European watch and jewellery retailer Bucherer.
He added: “This particular project has been in the works for five years. This will be a beautiful next phase of watch retail. We believe that from day one this will be unique in the industry. Replicas will follow quickly.”
The Watches of Switzerland flagship is a reaction to a global and local watch market that has changed rapidly in the past five years, according to Stead. He said: “In the last 50 or 60 years change in the watch industry has been very linear. We don’t live in those times any more; we live in a time of exponential change. London is changing, the world is changing, customers are changing, expectations are changing.”
Stead said that the “client journey” is most important to the success of the store. “Think of an Apple store – incredible, engaging, amazing energy, the ability to see something new every day. Think of the W Hotel, it’s cool. Think of a large horological shop. Now you have the Watches of Switzerland flagship.”
He explained that staff will be geared up to accommodate all types of shoppers within the client experience, whether they want to be in and out as quickly as possible with purchase in hand, or want to spend a full day at the store getting the complete customer service treatment and a great day of watch education. Most importantly, he said, it is not about a hard sell. “We are not looking to sell on the day, it’s about meeting the client’s needs.”
Stead described Aurum as a “quiet achiever” and went on to reveal that the company is on track to deliver its fourth consecutive record year of trading.
This article first appeared in the October 2013 issue of WatchPro magazine. To view a digital version of the edition in full, click here.