Take a walk down London’s New Bond Street and you will see some of the world’s most stylish boutiques. Chief among these is the recently re-modeled Wempe Jewellers, run by Lynn Schroeder, General Manageress.
Interestingly enough, most of Wempe’s watches are outside in the windows. Once you are buzzed in, Wempe is a luxurious environment without many cases, just welcoming salespeople ready to help you find the perfect watch.
To find out more about Wempe’s operation in London, I sat down with Schroeder in the London store.
Europa Star: How’s business?
Lynn Schroeder: We cannot complain, business has been quite extraordinary for us. Since we debuted the refurbished store, in July 2007, we have almost doubled business. The increase in the presence of our store, from 60 square metres to 440 square metres, allowed us to install 22 square metres of window space. People can now see what we have in stock.
First, we have established a good reputation in the first ten years. The second part is my team, which is very knowledgeable and experienced. We try very hard to give customers the whole luxury feel. People are coming in here and buying things they don’t need. They come to treat themselves, to give something nice to a loved one, and we try to give them the feeling that they have achieved something. We celebrate the sale with them, as a business partner, not so much as a salesperson. We try to find the right piece for them, we don’t try to sell them anything.
We have some windows inside, like Rolex, Patek, and some others. We try to listen to our customers and what they need, and we have all the watches in the drawers. We have the window space, where people can see what they like in the windows. We sit the customers down, start a conversation with them and then present the timepieces in front of them on a tray.
Even in the midst of this very deep recession, we are doing unbelievably well. I have worked very hard to get connections to the Chinese and international markets. The local market has fallen apart, but we have been able to replace it with Chinese and international customers.
ES: Does the locked, guarded door inhibit customers?
LS: I don’t think so. The security system is a necessary evil, we have no other choice. We always try to have a smiling face and open the door before they buzz.
In Europe, it’s different, this is an accepted way of doing things. We are not a department store. We welcome the customers, we ask them what they are looking for, we offer them coffee, we will show them anything they want to see and we are not pushy about it.
ES: What is your background?
LS: I have worked at Wempe for 13.5 years. I started my career in Hamburg, then moved to New York, then Frankfurt, then here in London.
Wempe is a family-owned business and you feel that through and through. You are not a number, they make you feel like you are a part of the success of the company. I am in touch with Mr. and Mrs. Wempe regarding issues here in London all the time. They involve all their managers in future plans for the next ten years. I love the opportunity to work internationally.
ES: How has business changed in recent years?
LS: I’ve seen that the average price has risen. When people treat themselves, they want to be educated and they are willing to spend more. The quick sell isn’t there any more. Some customers tend to have more information now. We want to give them the information they need.
ES: What is the secret of your success?
LS: I’m approachable. I am always here for my customers, business partners and staff. I am always in the showroom, so I can see every customer that comes in. I am in touch with what people want. If people want to talk with me, I am right there.
ES: What do you like about your job?
LS: I have found my dream job. I enjoy being in touch with people. It is rewarding to share the joy they have when they buy something. I love engagement rings, to help people to pick the right one, following up the process and meeting the entire family. I love the personal relationships.
ES: What is the biggest challenge facing your store right now?
LS: Taking it to the next level is a challenge for us, in terms of turnover. We have grown very quickly, but it’s a challenge to let more customers know that Wempe is making a difference in the industry.
ES: What is the biggest challenge facing the watch industry right now?
LS: The biggest challenge will be the product selection. Watch companies really have to get into people’s heads and find out what customers want to buy. It may be helpful to listen to what the retailers can share about their customers’ thoughts.
ES: How do you market your store?
LS: We do co-op advertising with our watch business partners. We try to find the right media to use – there are a lot of high class magazines, but we have to find the right ones to reach out to the right customers. Daily newspapers are very helpful as well, people are responding to our advertisements quite quickly. I am still trying to find new ways to reach our customers. I have been thinking about TV, but I think there is more to be done in the print media.
ES: Who is your customer?
LS: Our customer base has varied much more in the last year, because we can approach a different customer base with the new store. Our customers range from people who have established themselves young and are ready to treat themselves and their family, in addition to foreigners who can’t find what they are looking for in their countries, as well as wealthy people who are not only looking for the right product, but also for the right treatment.
ES: How important is security?
LS: Unfortunately, security has become very, very important. We had some troubles back in 2005, we have had some attempted robberies - the patterns have changed, they are now coming during the day, so we have a security guard outside all the time. In the redesign, we integrated security measures – we have 20 cameras, we have security fog for the passageway and the windows. We have created special wiring for the watches in the windows, and more that I don’t really want to talk about.
ES: Are you optimistic about the future?
LS: Against all odds, I am very optimistic. I think London is an important city, a centre of Europe. I hope the financial crisis will be over soon.
ES: What is your favourite watch?
LS: This is a tough question. I have several favourite watches – my first watch I ever purchased was a Rolex Explorer 1. As a treat to myself when I started here in London, I decided to buy a 5712R from Patek Philippe.
Source: Europa Star June - July 2010 Magazine Issue