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CW Sellors' Carsington project is expected to be completed in the spring of 2024.

THE BIG INTERVIEW: C W Sellors’ Grand Designs

Ten years in the making, C W Sellors in Derbyshire is building arguably the most ambitious watch and jewellery destination in the world. Rob Corder donned a hard hat for a tour of the construction site with James Sellors, his sister Becky and father Chris. Here is their incredible story.

Ten years in the making, C W Sellors in Derbyshire is building arguably the most ambitious watch and jewellery destination in the world. Rob Corder donned a hard hat for a tour of the construction site with James Sellors, his sister Becky and father Chris. Here is their incredible story.

WatchPro: Before we get into the really meaty news we are here to talk about today, let’s set the scene and get a quick history of C W Sellors, and how the business looks today.

JAMES SELLORS: My father Chris started the business over 40 years ago in 1979. At the time the business was focused mainly on manufacturing fine jewellery incorporating British gemstones, supplying to the trade. But he quickly saw opportunities in retail and moved into that traditional jeweller arena working with a number of established luxury brands.

Over time, we continued to build and develop our network of stores and partnerships, seeing the opportunity we moved early to develop our online business which has become increasingly important to us, understanding the importance of data we can now connect with our clients anytime from anywhere.

Overall, we are in a good place.

2023 is a big year for the family, with significant investment going into our building our estate which includes the new experience centre overlooking Carsington Water, a retail showcase for fine jewellery and luxury watches, but also home to our new jewellery manufacturing facility.

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Chris, Becky and James Sellors.

WatchPro: I would imagine that most people outside of your main market of Derbyshire, where you have a network of stores, would know C W Sellors and your other retail brand Jura Watches as an online business. But you have 10 stores today, not only in Derbyshire, but also Leeds, Chester, Ludlow and Whitby selling watches and jewellery, and they are as important to your business as online.

JAMES SELLORS: Bricks and mortar has always been central to everything that we do. We are continuously investing into our network and expanding stores where we can. Our passion for that side of the business has always been there.

The online opportunity has been essential to us over the past few years. It has been quite a journey. We have built up fantastic partnerships with each of our suppliers, including a number of specialist and independent brands that we have been able to develop and grow over time, and these sit alongside the larger, more established brands.

We also have a great team on board, with over 200 employees helping to deliver a first-class customer service and continued development across the business.

WatchPro: We met first in the Bakewell store this morning. Would you say that is becoming a bit of a flagship for C W Sellors in terms of your market town showrooms?

JAMES SELLORS: Definitely. Bakewell has certainly developed into our flagship store, a template for what we can roll into other towns and cities.

Looking beyond that is our new and exciting Carsington development, which will be more than just a flagship in the normal sense of the word. It will deliver a whole new experience.

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How the C W Bakewell flagship will look after an extension this year.

Focusing first on your market town proposition, the Bakewell showroom is fairly familiar to any watch customer. It is a double-fronted property in a perfect location in the centre of the historic town. You have corners for TAG Heuer and Breitling, and IWC shop in shop and a nice multibrand jewellery area. I understand you are expanding and remodelling that store.

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Inside the Bakewell showroom.

JAMES SELLORS: Yes. We are taking the retail unit next door. That will give us space to install a Faberge shop in shop, a Gucci shop in shop, and also open up the opportunity to bring additional prestigious brands into the fold. Alongside those brands, we will have a fantastic showcase for our own fine jewellery collections.

We are just in the process of finalising how it will look, and which brands will be joining us. When we have completed all the work required we will have almost doubled our floor space so there is a lot of opportunity to bring in new brands, add consultation tables alongside the installation of a Moet & Chandon champagne bar.

WatchPro: It is great to see those ambitious plans on the back of what has already been incredible growth in recent years. As you know, WatchPro keeps an eye on accounts published at Companies House and we could see that C W Sellors suddenly took off, trebling in size to around £30 million in sales, and that figure is a year out of date. What has gone so right over the past few years?

Cw sellors cw sellors turnover Cw sellors cw sellors operating profit 1JAMES SELLORS: I think the past few years has allowed us to focus on our business, who we are and what we do best. Online was a big opportunity for us during the covid period when people were spending more time at home with fewer ways to enjoy themselves and from which we saw demand for watches take off.

Coming out of that, the work has been more about looking at our estate and working hard to come up with a new retail concept that we’re in the process of rolling out throughout our stores. Work is continuing on that, and also on the opening of new stores whilst expanding existing ones where possible. In parallel, we are continually looking to bring on new brand partnerships.

WatchPro: It has been unusual in recent years for family-owned jewellers in smaller towns to build up a network of stores. Most have been closing doors. How have you achieved that when so many have struggled against the giant multiples, rising costs and other challenges? Is it about really understanding local customers and also how tourists shop in this part of the country?

JAMES SELLORS: Typically, we are in medium to large market towns and we always want to be the best jeweller in each location, and ideally in places with a large catchment area and high footfall through tourism. That formula has always worked well for us. Every store is tailored to the town it is in, so there is a different feel to all of them, but the key is that any customer coming into see us feels like they are getting a personal relationship with a family jeweller.

WatchPro: They certainly all look like the sort of family-owned stores that might have been serving their towns for generations. A big difference is that you have a solid watch offer in most locations, which not many smaller jewellers have managed to maintain.

JAMES SELLORS: That is a big part of where we are heading. We want to bring more watches into our stores. We have good representation across Derbyshire, North Yorkshire, Shropshire and last year we opened our first store in Cheshire. Going forward we want to continue to broaden our appeal across different locations.

WatchPro: Most of your locations, with the exception of Leeds and Chester, have been largely overlooked by watch brands, but you have found and cultivated demand in places where most watch executives do not think exists.

JAMES SELLORS: Absolutely. We have managed to turn these stores into destinations because we have quite a unique offering. We have worked smart to develop our database and build close relationships with our clients, besides this we have also built-up close relationships with some tremendous suppliers, independent brands, and we offer places where collectors can come together and engage with us in a slightly different way to other jewellers.

WatchPro: What is fascinating about the C W Sellors story is that it is on one hand very familiar. Your stores may have more and better watch brands than most jewellers in similar locations, but they do look much like other family-run jewellers up and down the country. What you have managed, which most do not, is to develop a network of stores that support each other, and are underpinned by the strength of your online offer, and which adds up to a much bigger business than people would expect in this part of the country with turnover of £30 million in your last financial year. And that is before we get onto the really big news we are here to talk about.

JAMES SELLORS: Branding, as a retailer, has been important to us, and knowing where we sit in the marketplace. We have realised that we want to work with the most prestigious brands and we want to push into new markets with those brands and others that want to come on board. You see that in the upgrades, expansions and refurbishments we have been working through.

WatchPro: Speaking of branding, how to Jura Watches and C W Sellors fit together. Why do you have two retail brands?

JAMES SELLORS: C W Sellors is an established name and has built its reputation over many decades. Jura was an acquisition back in 2012.

What that brought us was a specialist luxury watch division. It has allowed us to focus purely on catering and appealing to watch collectors.

We have a valuable database of clients, which is a great resource when it comes to hosting events at places like Chatsworth House. We can also reach out to these clients when we have anything new and interesting to offer.

WatchPro: I know that over the course of 40 years in business you have been in real estate because you like to own all of your properties.

JAMES SELLORS: That has been key to our decisions. We want to build an estate we can be proud of and pass onto future generations. Becky and I are the second generation, but we hope a third generation will come into the business.

Becky has two children, a boy and a girl, and so do I. They are already being dragged around jewellery and watch shows, shops and construction sites.

We are continuing what our father did with us, introducing them to the business as they grow. The jewellery and watch industry has offered so many opportunities to us throughout our lifetimes.

WatchPro: What is impressive to me is the extent to which your business is so embedded into the communities you serve. For example, your annual Christmas event at Chatsworth House is a very big deal in this area.

CHRIS SELLORS: Christmas Wishes has always been our biggest event in the calendar, which has been attended by over 6,000 people during a single weekend, and we looked forward to that event every year. Covid made it much harder, we have and will continue to hold smaller events at Chatsworth House.

But the plan is to bring Christmas Wishes back with a bang when we are fully open at Carsington on a greater and grander scale than ever before.

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C W Sellors held its annual Christmas Wishes event for customers at Chatsworth House.

Cw sellors chatsworth house 1WatchPro: Delighting your clients is not just about inviting them to fabulous events, I know you also work hard on the customer relationship management side of things through technology you first acquired when you bought Jura Watches and have developed since.

CHRIS SELLORS: We were early to identify that data is important to everything we do when it comes to decision-making and also the way we engage with our clients. We like to stay in touch with them regularly to inform them about everything that we are doing, from new product launches to events and store openings.

WatchPro: Let’s play a fantasy game here. I’m one of your customers living in the local area and spending six figures a year on a couple of Czapeks, the odd Breitling or TAG Heuer watch and jewellery for special occasions and treats. How am I going to be treated? What am I going to be invited to?

CHRIS SELLORS: We have a number of unique opportunities for you. Because of the connections we have with the Devonshire’s, there might be an invitation for dinner with the Duke and Duchess.

We have private events and showcases at the exclusive venues. Another local connection is with [construction plant and machinery giant] JCB.

We have a corporate membership with the JCB Golf and Country Club which allows us to invite clients for a unique experience playing the course and enjoying the hospitality for a full day. We also host events at the club throughout the year.

JCB Golf and Country Club.

WatchPro: So you are tight with Lord and Lady Bamford?

CHRIS SELLORS: I like to think so, we have always been a keen supporter and strongly admire what they have achieved as a family.

WatchPro: To bring us close to the present day: you have built a successful network of brick and mortar stores across this region; you have a huge online presence with C W Sellors and Jura Watches; and you have amazing reach into the local community with thousands of clients. Many people would be happy to trade from that position for generations, but your father, you and your sister appear to have lost your minds and decided to buy 18 acres of land by a reservoir in Derbyshire and build something quite extraordinary. We are talking about the C W Wellors National Gemstone and Jewellery Design Centre, which we are overlooking during its construction as we sit here today.

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James Sellors and Rob Corder chat in a marquee overlooking the Carsington development in March 2023. The site of the tent will become a helicopter pad when construction is completed.

CHRIS SELLORS: You could say that. It has been ten years in the making and a lot of blood, sweat and tears along the way to bring it to this point. Going forwards it is a big part of our future and we are all excited about the opportunities it will open up for us.

WatchPro: I will just set the scene, because it will be difficult for readers to appreciate where we are sitting and what we are talking about. We are here doing a hard hat tour of a vast building site on a beautiful stretch of Derbyshire land overlooking a reservoir. In the heart of it is an enormous construction rising out of the landscape. Help us out here and just give us the square footage so we can get a sense of the scale.

CHRIS SELLORS: It is going to be around 18,500 square feet and with 3 levels. We are building in such a way that we can continue to extend and develop as required.

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WatchPro’s Alex Douglas and Rob Corder with Becky and James Sellors.

WatchPro: As we sit here in March, we are looking at a steel shell over three storeys with floors and walls starting to take shape. At the front there is going to be floor to ceiling glass giving incredible views over the water. It is easiest to describe it as one of those incredible projects you see on Grand Designs, but on a commercial scale.

CHRIS SELLORS: It is certainly something new for the jewellery and watch industry and we cannot wait to start bringing people up here to share our vision. We think that once our partners see what we are building, it will open up a lot of interesting conversations and opportunities about how it can be developed.

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WatchPro: When are you hoping to open?

CHRIS SELLORS: By the end of this year is when we hope to have at least part of the facility open, but the grand opening is more likely to be next Spring. It is going to be an evolving project.

WatchPro: I have seen retail evolve dramatically over the past ten years from a situation where everything was sold over the top of glass counters to today where the business is delivering incredible experiences for customers and developing exceptional environments where brands want to be represented. There are some amazing retailers doing precisely these things, but this is another level. I would describe this project as one of the most exciting retail projects in the world and brands should be beating a path to your door to discover how they can be part of it. This is not just a very big store, it is a completely new concept that I have not seen attempted before.

CHRIS SELLORS: That is exactly what we are hoping to achieve. In a very accessible and central location, it offers a new personalised retail shopping experience, the complete opposite from busy shopping centre stores in big cities that we are all familiar with. This is truly unique and we are very excited.

WatchPro: I don’t think this is a story that can be fully told after just one visit, so I intend to do my Kevin McCloud act and return a number of times this year. But tell me what are you hoping people will see when this Grand Design is fully up and running in a year or two’s time?

CHRIS SELLORS: It is our aim to have the facility fully opened by spring 2024, I believe it will continue to evolve and adapt over many years to come.

There will be a restaurant and Champagne bar on-site with opportunity to bring in celebrity chefs, space for both intimate and largescale events to run alongside the retail and workshop areas.

We want to showcase the finest jewellery and watches from all around the world. We want people to really engage with this site, to see it develop and go on this journey with us.

Ultimately, it will be an experience centre where people can come and spend the day or weekend with us. They can walk or cycle around the reservoir then come to us and see jewellery being produced in our workshops.

They can have a drink or dine with us on our roof terrace, and they will be able to buy the finest jewellery and watches. We describe it as a playground for adults.

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Carsington sits within 18 acres overlooking a stunning reservoir.

WatchPro: Talking of experiences, you have shown us your plans to make this a wedding venue as well?

CHRIS SELLORS: Yes, we have a separate area within the grounds that can host weddings, and that won’t interfere with anything else we are doing in the main building. People can stay on site, and couples will be able to come into the centre to design and make their own wedding and engagement rings, including pouring gold and setting stones.

Every part of the 18-acre site will have power, so we will have car parks with electric chargers. We will even have our own helicopter pad, which tells you that the sky is the limit on how we see this developing.

People can fly here by helicopter in an hour from Battersea Heliport in London or 20 minutes from Birmingham or Manchester. We are in the centre of the country so we are accessible from everywhere. We do also see this as an opportunity to offer our clients an opportunity to explore the wonders of the Peak District.

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We want to be a destination for the whole country to enjoy and celebrate. We will have a host of services on site including diamond grading, manufacturing and watchmaking. All of those skills will be here and people can spend time with our specialists. It is a genuine centre of excellence.

In some ways it is just an extension of what the family has always done, which is to reinvest profits form the business into the next big thing, whether that be improving existing stores or opening new ones. You have just taken it to another level.

That is our DNA and how we have always operated; doing it ourselves and investing our own money.

Over the decades, we have always been a family business with family values and we want to create something that generations to come will be proud of.

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WatchPro: Bringing this back specifically to the watch industry. A strong trend these days is that retailers work with fewer brands and those brands are given more space so that customers get the best possible experience. C W Sellors and Jura Watches has always stocked a very large range of brands, but do you think in the future we will see you reducing that portfolio so that you can focus more on a smaller number of partners?

CHRIS SELLORS: I think the trick is to tailor our offer to the towns we work in. We do want to work with more premium brands going forwards, but we also want to be accessible to people coming into the watch world so that we can educate them along their journey.

That means we do want to keep working with the strong line up of specialist and independent brands that we currently offer.

It is important to be able to introduce clients to new things all of the time.

WatchPro: Aside from Carsington, do you intend to keep investing in brick-and-mortar stores in other parts of the country?

CHRIS SELLORS: Very much so. We see more opportunities to open over the coming years. That might be through acquisitions or organic growth of the network. And we also hope that the investment we are putting in will help us to build relationships with the very biggest brands as we prove ourselves.

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