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HOT 100 2013: Wes Suter, Steffans

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Most of you will have heard of Steffans, but the award-winning Northampton retailer is more famous for its flamboyant marketing and domination of the branded jewellery market than it is for watches. 

But in June last year the retailer made the bold move to open a dedicated watch showroom, WatchWorks. This latest evolution of the family business was led by director Wes Suter, who runs the business with his father Stef Suter.

Wes says that as well as being a practical move that is reactive to market trends, WatchWorks was also borne from a personal passion for timepieces. “I love watches. Most men, if they’re brutally honest have a passion for watches over jewellery. My true passion is selling pre-owned watches, it’s a really important part of the market.”

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While Wes is a personality that bubbles over with passion and enthusiasm, he also has a keen head for business, and explains that focusing more heavily on fashion watches through the new store has been a good commercial move.
“We were a business that sold a lot of Swiss watches and the fashion watches were a small part of our business, but now they are on par because of the space we’ve given the fashion brands.”

Focusing on fashion over Swiss out of choice is a move away from the traditional retail herd, but Wes believes it is in tune with today’s modern shopper’s desire for multiple purchases. “We are all Ikea customers, that’s what I call it. It’s a generation thing. There are people who want to buy one watch but there’s loads of people who want to buy more than one. It’s the same people who go to Office to buy their shoes and buy 10 or 20 pairs of shoes a year, whereas their parents would have had shoes reheeled.”

Wes’s stream of retail consciousness knows no bounds, and his opinions come fast and colourful. One thought he expresses, before quickly jumping onto others, is that one day when the economy recovers we can all take it a little bit easier. This sounds good to him, as he is often left scrabbling to find time to spend with his two young daughters who are his “true love”.

But for now the economy feels OK, says Wes, but not good enough to stop working hard for every pound in the till. Luckily he has some plans in place that will keep him safely off the rugby field (he is lying in bed with a busted knee as we speak) that include a new “game changer” website and the introduction of shop in shops dedicated to Swiss brands. Hopefully he’ll have a little time left over for a quick tinkling of Chopsticks on the ivories.

The Retail Titans category was sponsored by Bremont.

To see the full digital version of the Hot 100, click here

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