With the first spring days of 2013, there was much talk of a revolution in the watch business model, with the opening of the world’s biggest watch store.
While the industry is accustomed to records, this is a truly unique case, a sort of watch megastore. And in addition, this watchmaking temple opened in Paris, which is not only the world capital of luxury, but above all the number one tourist destination in the world. The objective was clear: Bucherer, its operator, was targeting passing trade.
Six months later, a dramatic turn of events took place for one of the most visible tourist nationalities, that of Chinese origin. Two successive laws changed the economic landscape of the capital. The first was the legal modification of the way tour operators function. Henceforth, the latter were no longer allowed to impose a compulsory stop of their buses in front of commercial enterprises. This was a hard blow for Printemps, Galeries Lafayette and others… such as Bucherer.
Then another Middle Kingdom law put an end to political gifts. Many watch brands benefited considerably from this custom which evaporated in a flash. So the Bucherer watch megastore did not start out under the best of conditions. And all under the cautious eye – to say the very least – of the local retailers.
So what is happening one year on?
The first finding stems from a simple observation: the shop is still in place, it has exactly the same number of brands (23), salespeople (100), and is upholding its gamble of offering a very wide spectrum of opening hours.
"Entering Bucherer is less intimidating than going into brand boutiques"
“We are open from 8am to 8 or 9pm, six days a week” says Nathalie Célia, executive director of Bucherer, France. “Early morning is ideal for local clients who can stop and have a coffee before going to work. In the evening, we give them a moment when they can unwind before going to the theatre for example. This range of opening hours allows us to enjoy the benefit of key periods such as the Golden Week, the festive season etc.”. And outside these periods, in other words, during most of the year? “It’s a gamble on the long term,” admits Nathalie Célia.
Adjustments along the way
This immensity has nonetheless required a few adjustments. The main one was with respect to personnel. Initially, each salesperson was specialised in their own brand. The advantage: perfect product knowledge. The downside: as soon as the client moved corners or, worse, floors, he changed advisors. With 23 brands in the boutique, the game rapidly turned into musical chairs.
In order to remedy this, Bucherer implemented a tough training formula: 15 courses in a single year for each salesperson! Today, all are versatile, without having lost touch with their original brand. A year later, the recipe is working well. The salespeople can accompany their clients wherever they go. And in addition, there is a very low staff turnover. Bucherer enjoys telling the story of the two salespeople who handed in their notice … and came back some time later.
In April 2013, critics also questioned the kind of collections presented at Bucherer. It was a unique case of a megastore offering 23 brands, all – or nearly all – of which had a dedicated boutique a few hundred metres away!
A year later, Bucherer has found its feet in two ways. The first, by presenting the complete collections. As a result, one can find every Blancpain, Longines, Vacheron Constantin, Girard Perregaux, IWC and Piaget, give or take a couple of models.
The second is that, in some instances, certain pieces can only be found at Bucherer. “This is the case with Roger Dubuis, for whom we are the only depository for certain exceptional timepieces,” emphasises Nathalie Célia. This is a position that is however facilitated by the fact that Roger Dubuis does not have its own boutique in Paris that might wish to hold on to such pieces for itself.
The final element that has appeared over the months is the Bucherer ecosystem. What exactly does that mean? The term refers to the brands that have congregated around the Parisian giant. Cartier, firstly, which is an integral part of the megastore, but with its own entrance and completely autonomous management. Then TAG Heuer, which is not managed by Bucherer but is physically adjoined to it. And finally, Omega, located just opposite, without any connection to Bucherer, but which undeniably benefits from its influence. All share the same clients as well as a few thornier issues, such as the prevention of watchmaking banditry, which has become a favourite national pastime just a few metres away on the Place Vendôme.