Whether using store events with watch brands as a hard sell or light entertainment it would seem that a bit of collaboration can yield huge benefits. Kathryn Lewis reports on some of the more interesting retail store parties across the UK and asks just how well clued up retailers are on the watch brands they promote.
Jewellers from across the country are finding that promotional events can generate higher sales and deeper brand loyalty.
Tustains Jewellers in Leamington Spa hosts a number of events for brands each year, and Tom Milner, the store’s co-owner, recalls they did six watch brand events in 2012. “We find that brands offer the perfect vehicle for doing events really,” says Milner. “Obviously you have a ready-made mailing list of people who are interested in the brand already.”
Milner has run multi-brand watch events in the past, but he is averse to lumping watch brands together and prefers to group jewellery and watches together for store events, a combination that Milner says works beautifully. “I probably wouldn’t cross over watch brands but we’ve done perhaps a ladies and gents thing with a watch brand, in conjunction with a jewellery brand,” he says. “We did that last year with Baccarat and Bell & Ross.”
He adds that such events have proved successful because they provide something for everyone. It also provides a little something for Tustains itself, with the retailer claiming that store events in conjunction with brands do have a positive impact on sales.
But for Milner, in house events are as much about building brands as they are about generating sales. “They almost always translate into an uplift in sales,” he says. “Sometimes just on the day itself but sometimes it’s residual in the weeks after.”
Tustains last event, held in conjunction with the luxury watch brand Omega, raised more than £4,000 for Cancer Research UK.
The company hired a local cinema for a special screening of the latest James Bond film, Skyfall. “The tie in for us was Omega because they produce the James Bond watch,” Milner said. The black tie event was followed by an in-house watch exhibition the following week. “We raised loads of money,” beams Milner. “Over £4,000 for charity.”
In Milner’s view the watch companies his store works with provide them with adequate training for staff to be proficient brand ambassadors, something that is key to building consumer confidence in brand names. “The brands always visit the store,” Milner says. “They would send a rep, someone from sales or solely in training, to the store to talk to all the staff.” At Tustains these training sessions usually take a couple of hours.
Sophie Fulford, the managing director of Windsor Bishop in Norwich, also believes events are both a boon to sales and brand recognition. “We host a lot of events, both in store and at external locations,” she says. “It’s dependant on whether it’s a brand launch, a new model launch, or an annual exhibition event.”
Like Tustains, Windsor Bishop typically hosts single brand events. However, the store is hosting themed multi-brand events around the Christmas season. “We hosted a Pearls & Perfume event showing our house pearl collection, a fabulous collection that we have designed and produced using pearls bought direct from the Far East, and we combined this with an event with Chanel,” Fulford explains. “The next Sunday was Watches & Whiskey, when we worked closely with Panerai and invited the English Whiskey Distillery to do whisky tastings, and then the last Sunday we did Footballers & Ferraris where we worked very much hand in hand with Hublot.”
Due to Hublot’s relationship with Ferrari Winsor Bishop was able to have two Ferraris parked outside its store that customers could get in and try them out.
“We also invited a Premier League footballer, who we sponsor, to come into the store for the day, and he offered autographs and our professional photographer took shots of him with customers, and we then provided them with a keepsake photo of the day with the footballer,” says Fulford. “It was signed with a lovely message from him and from Winsor Bishop – that has a long shelf life in terms of marketing because it’s a keepsake item.”
Fulford says these events were both about building brand recognition and generating sales. “Obviously it’s about building the brand, and that’s communicated right from the start in the form of the invitation and the social media communications,” says Fulford. “However we are all in business to convert events to sales and the success of the event is related to sales. The difficulty is tracking a sale as a result of the event because very often we will have leads from the event that convert to a sale within that year.”
Fulford says that training from brands varies from company to company. “There is some very structured training that is required by some of our brands, so much so you are simply not allowed to conduct a product presentation with a customer until you have completed various stages of training with the individual brand,” she says. “The training also continues with different levels and complexities – we have team members on all different levels. Other brands will come at the start of the relationship and deliver basic brand training and present us with an overview of the collection but this is becoming less and less common as they move more towards complex training programmes.”
At Windsor Bishop brands are given as much time as they need with the store’s staff for training. “When brand representatives visit us, we tend to allocate the board room and rota training sessions in, so perhaps you’d have two or three members of the team who will attend mini training refreshers so we’re always up to date,” she says.
Mick Megarry, watch manager at Lunns in Belfast, concurs that events bring people into the store and generate sales. “It works very well, it gets a lot of people in,” he says.
But according to Megarry it’s best to do fewer events per year so as not to overwhelm customers. “You don’t want to swamp your customers too much,” he advises. “If we start doing a number of events it would dilute things. It’s best to just have one strong event in the year.”
In 2012 that one event for Lunns was an exhibition of Rolex’s BaselWorld collection of that year, something that was a treat for its customers as the exhibition contained many models that are not on general sale in the store.
When it comes to educating staff about the watch brands they work with Megarry says that Lunns is open to as much training as brands are willing to give. “Patek Phillippe do an incredibly good online course from very basic mechanics through to top level finish,” he says. “It’s a minimum of 30 hours online and staff do it in their own time. If they pass they go over to a seminar in south England. The next level is four days in Switzerland. They can take it as far as they want.”
Oliver Peppiatt, the manager of the watch department at Michael Spiers Jewellers, says his company tends to stick to single brand events as well. “We have done multi-brand events before but I find for sales that single brand events are better,” he says. “You can show a better selection of stock to a more focused client base.” When Michael Spiers does events, the goal is twofold – to increase brand awareness and to generate sales. “It’s great to give a new brand exposure but at the end of the day the goal is to sell them,” he states.
Michael Spiers has held events over the years in and out of the store. Its most recent was a Bell & Ross pop-up shop at a regional hill climb event. The store publicised the event by driving a Porche decked out in Bell & Ross livery around town in advance of the event.
Like other retailers, Michael Spiers Jewellers does not have an issue with training. “Most training is done in store by myself, having been to Basel and chosen the new products,” Peppiatt says. “Some brands will send out press release information when new pieces are launched. Also we may have a yearly training session in store with a brand rep to refresh knowledge.”
Craig Leach, the UK brand manager at Raymond Weil, agrees that promotional events sell watches. “The stores that do them are definitely driving the business ahead,” he says, adding that independent retailers tend to host events more than chains. Single-brand events work best, Leach says, but adds that Raymond Weil has been involved in multi-brand promotions in the past.
Leach says a recent event hosted by Scottish jeweller Rox was a huge success for Raymond Weil. “We just did an event with Rox in Edinburgh and it was particularly successful,” Leach says. “We got Labrinth to perform there for about 600 people at a champagne cocktail opening.” Raymond Weil is organising another event with Labrinth for the Brit Awards in January.
Leach says that the company does not have issues with stores being ill equipped to sell the Raymond Weil brand. “They’re generally very good with training,” he says. “It’s beneficial for both parties.” When shops sign on to sell Raymond Weil products staff receive roughly an hour of training.
Sandy Madhvani, the showroom manager at David M Robinson in London, approaches events differently from many other showrooms across the country. “When we have the events it’s not about generating sales, it’s about educating the clients about new collections and providing an experience,” Madhvani says. “We are not only educating the client about new products, we’re also thanking our loyal clients who have helped build our business.”
Madhvani contends that word of mouth is the most effective way of generating sales and getting more traffic to the store. Events do not necessarily result in sales, Madhvani says, but they are nonetheless important to the business. “If sales do come it’s nice to have that, but purely it’s more of an entertainment and educational experience for the client,” he says.
David M Robinson, which hosts roughly five events a year pegged to different product launches, typically sticks to single-brand events. “We concentrate on single brands in launches,” Madhvani says. “Every brand has different launches at different parts of the year.”
Madhvani says his company has not had trouble with a lack of training offered from watch brands. “I’ve been in the business 33 years and I have a very good relationship with all the brands,” he says. “They’re very receptive to one-to-one and team training.”
Charles Fish, another London based jeweller, mostly sticks to single-brand events. “Part of our promise to our brands is to give them the maximum support we can as a retailer,” says Charles Fish marketing director Jane Payne. “This means coming up with an innovative programme of events tailored to the specific values of the brands we work with.”
Like many other retailers, Payne has found that single-brand events work best. “It gives each brand its own chance to shine,” Payne says. “This year we created a very special programme of events called One to Watch where each brand was given a period of time where we featured them particularly: in store, via a very active social media programme and dedicated special events. It was very successful in terms of putting Charles Fish on the map as a great place to buy a proper timepiece.
At Charles Fish, events are about building brands and generating sales. “Given the price point of our watches they are unlikely to be an impulse purchase, but if customers are keen to buy, we will not stop them,” laughs Payne. “We always aim to bring new pieces to special events, and also to have representatives from our brands there so that our customers can ask all the technical questions they want. That our brands support us the way they do really demonstrates their support for us too.”
Charles Fish invests heavily in training staff and choosing the brands it carries carefully. “We have also tailored our watch offering so that we can really concentrate on knowing the brands we retail very well,” Payne says. Before the store takes on a new brand the team is fully briefed. “Throughout the year we top this up with specific intensive training for example on new movements and their benefits, new collections,” Payne says. “We aim to see our brand representatives around once a month.”
Whether working closely with brands to put on store events just for fun, or to sell more watches, it seems that a party never goes amiss. While it can be important not to flood your customers with invitations, tailoring events to specific groups of shoppers can help, and tying a party in with a non-watch product, be that a footballer or a perfume, is a fun way to educate shoppers and inspire.
This article was taken from the January 2013 issue of WatchPro. To read the magazine online, click here.