HOT 100 2013: Craig Rebuck, WatchWarehouse

Craig Rebuck says he likes to think his nomination into the WatchPro Hot 100 was because of his company’s innovative approach to retail. “We came to retail with lots of experience of the industry and we recognised where the industry was going early on,” he says.

Damn straight.

With a family background in traditional jewellery retail, Craig started selling watches on eBay and developed that portal into the hugely successful etailer WatchWarehouse. He did it all before the mass conversion from bricks to clicks that has had many more retailers cobbling together a transactional web presence and clamouring for online sales. While they do that, this year Craig has flipped it round again and taken his online store into bricks and mortar on London’s Edgware Road.
And that’s only the start. “We’ve put it out that we will open five new stores and that’s still the viewpoint for the next six months,” he says. It will be building on solid growth and this year Craig says the company has moved warehouse and upgraded massively, “partly to accommodate our current growth and also to set the cornerstones for future expansion”.

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This growth is based on unit sales that Craig coyly says are huge. But he speaks with both humility and a persuasive conviction. “Bearing in mind that this is the first WatchPro Hot 100, and that it will set the tone, it is very humbling to be recognised by my peers for a contribution to the watch industry.

I am passionate about watches. To put one on a client’s wrist is very personal and I think the industry can sometimes forget that – you are actually attaching something to someone’s body.”

That attitude resonates with his three-word mantra and company statement: integrity, service, experience; which in effect is how he bridges the values of his family business with a larger, more corporate structure. “I think that I’ve worked very hard to amalgamate the two – the discipline of a corporate structure with the caring nurturing nature of a family business. This year for instance, we introduced Belbin – it really helped people to understand their strengths and see their weaknesses and it has meant that we can get the right person in the right job, rather than give someone a task and hope they manage it.”

It is clearly hard work, but Craig doesn’t complain. Instead, his reflection on the journey so far concentrates on his mirror’s reflection. “I’m older, fatter and balder. It is hard work, but as the dust settles, it looks like it’s been worth it.”

The Retail Titans category was sponsored by Bremont.

This article first appeared in the WatchPro Hot 100. To see the digital version of the book, click here.

 

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