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HOT 100 2013: Mark Toulson, Aurum

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By anybody’s standards, Aurum is a powerhouse player in the industry, with Watches of Switzerland, Mappin & Webb, Goldsmiths and Goldsmiths.Boutique all adding heft to its impressive portfolio of brands. So by any measure, its head of watch buying must be a vital cog in the UK’s horology scene.

That person is Mark Toulson. He’s alive to the scrutiny he comes under as a de facto industry celebrity. “I’m really lucky to do a job I absolutely love, working with great people and then to be recognised for it via the Hot 100 nomination is really quite something.”

But then his job is really quite something. He must knit together a fantastic depth of industry knowledge with a clear and decisive buying strategy. He’s up to the task, curating a vibrant watch offer. This year has meant new in-store shop in shops, highly visible advertisements and, of course, the watch buying – all designed to create strong consumer demand.

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And it has been decisive: “Over recent times we have reduced the number of brands we stock in order to focus time, budgets and space on our biggest brands. It’s a simple, but effective strategy that has worked well for us as evidenced in the GfK data we receive.” He adds that overall it led to a good year. “Despite a tough economic climate we successfully grew our business and took market share.”

Working with the quantity and quality of brands that he does, he has developed a nuanced view of each of them In terms of e-tail for instance. “With certain brands, such as Omega and TAG Heuer, the sales have been terrific so you can’t really argue against the increasing importance of the e-commerce. My personal view is that some brands still require a visit to the store in order to get the full brand experience that you don’t get from a screen. Much of our store team’s focus is on giving the customer a fantastic experience in store by explaining the product in a great environment and building a relationship with them.”

Of course in a role like this you never really get the chance to slow down. If anything, for Toulson, it is speeding up and next year will see Watches of Switzerland step up its retail footprint with an ambitious flagship in London. “It’s a massive undertaking for Aurum and it’s a real thrill to be part of it.”

Mark Toulson was selected as a Bremont Retail Titan in the WatchPro Hot 100 2013  in association with The Company of Master Jewellers. To read a digital version of the book in full online, click here

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