I met Constanza Briones at the SIHH – we were waiting in line for the hotel shuttle buses and decided to save time and get a taxi together. She turned out to be a leading retailer from Chile, a family business established in the 1990s, working with her father Hernán Briones Goich. Here is an exclusive look into her business, H. Briones Comercial.
- Constanza Briones and her father Hernán Briones Goich
Europa Star: Please give me the history of your store.
Constanza Briones: My grandfather Hernán Briones Gorostiaga started this company back in the 1990s when he realized there was an opening to tend to a new market niche – people who only acquired luxury products when they travelled abroad. We gave them the possibility to buy them locally in Chile. The first brand we took on was Montblanc. He negotiated the deal to represent them by fax and phone and we still have the original document. The next was Cartier. Then year-by-year we added more and more amazing brands to our incredible portfolio. H. Briones Comercial started as the select agent of the brands, basing its business exclusively in wholesale. After a few years, the company introduced new brands and decided to incorporate the retail business too by opening the first watches boutique in Chile, HBC Briones, located in the exclusive Alonso de Cordova avenue. Afterwards we added four other boutiques. Adding my own history to the company, I started when I was 13 years old at the end of the school year, going every morning with my grandfather to the office, and working at the warehouse labelling the products that arrived. The following year I started working as an assistant to the sales representatives of the brands. Until I turned 18, I worked during the Christmas period in the stores. In college, I studied Communications and minored in Public Relations. After graduating I started as Commercial Assistant in the company and stayed for two years. Afterwards, for four years I worked on my own personal projects. And last year I came back as executive director for HBC.
“The luxury industry in Chile has been growing at a rate of 30 per cent per year during the last three years.”
CB: The luxury industry in Chile has been growing at a rate of 30 per cent per year during the last three years. H. Briones Comercial has been growing at an average rate of 12 per cent per year as our brands are already well positioned in the market.
How has business changed in recent years?
CB: The luxury market is rapidly developing in Chile and so are our customers, which are becoming more sophisticated and demanding every day. They are aware of the new trends, brands and interested in specific products.
What is the secret of your success?
CB: We have been successful through the years because we are up to date with the worldwide trends, have a wide portfolio of brands allowing us to offer an extensive range of products. We focus on customer service by giving them a unique luxury experience.
What is your relationship like with other retailers?
CB: We’ve been taking different actions together with other retailers in order to share experiences to develop a successful strategy as a whole and not individually, in order to create a synergy and form a strong association to address issues that are important and critical to the industry, with negotiating power.
What do you think is unique about your market?
CB: The most unique thing in our market is that, even though it is not a big market in numbers, it is very sophisticated and repeat purchases are very high. We get to know our customers very well and we can build long-term relationships and be present in important moments of their lives.
“We have been the market leader for many years, and it has always represented a challenge for us to keep that position.”
What makes your store stand out?
CB: The special care we take on every single detail in order to make the purchasing experience an unforgettable one. Our stores are situated in prime locations, we put special attention into the design, layout and the atmosphere. In order to deliver an extraordinary experience to the customer, we have well-trained sales representatives, not only on specific product characteristics, but also on how to satisfy our customers and make them feel unique.
What do you like about your job?
CB: I like being challenged every day by the demands of the job. When you have sophisticated customers, one cannot be complacent. Creativity and innovation are key.
What don’t you like?
CB: I get a bit frustrated when things don’t turn out the way I planned for. But it quickly translates into energy, to get things right and working again.
What is the biggest challenge facing your store right now?
CB: We have been the market leader for many years, and it has always represented a challenge for us to keep that position. But it is a kind of challenge that fuels creativity and innovation.
What is the biggest challenge facing the watch industry right now?
CB: Every day, more and more brands are being introduced to the market by our competitors and globalization allows people to discover different brands and models and they have the possibility to acquire them in many different places and by diverse means. However, this is not particular to the watch industry and it is the sign of the times.
How do you market your store?
CB: We publish ads in the most important magazines in Chile but we mostly do direct marketing activities, VIP events and Customer Relationship Management activities. We always try to remain close to our clients. Additionally we put a lot of effort in maintaining high standards of customer service in order to get a good word of mouth for our stores.
“We invest heavily in our brands and I can say that we have been successful with all of them.”
Do you do repairs at your store? How do you handle repairs?
CB: Not directly in our store, but we have a recently renewed after sale service office with first class facilities and qualified professionals attending all our clients requirements and needs.
How important is security?
CB: As we work with high value products, security is always an issue, both on our points of sales and during the transportation of the pieces between our distribution centre and the stores. We take a special care for our client’s security. We have been robbed in the past, and we have implemented different procedures and technology in order to reinforce our security.
Are you optimistic about the future?
CB: Absolutely. The luxury industry is growing and we are constantly reinventing ourselves in order to satisfy the rapidly increasing demands of our customers.
Will you be adding/deleting any brands in the next 12 months?
CB: This is not something that we are considering at the moment. We are very selective with the brands that we work with. We invest heavily in our brands and I can say that we have been successful with all of them. So, more than thinking of deleting a brand, we aim to selectively add some brands in the future. What does time mean to you? CB: Time is a measure that reminds us that we are alive. A journey through past, present and future that brings us reminiscences, allows us to plan ahead and transports us through our most memorable moments.
What is your favourite watch?
CB: For me, every watch is unique in its own way, so I can say that all watches are, in some way and time, special to me.
Many thanks to Constanza Briones for being so open and allowing Europa Star’s readers a glimpse into her successful business. Gracias!
- Name: H. Briones Comercial (HBC)
- Location(s): Eight (8) stores in Santiago, Chile
- How long: 21 years
- Employees: 150
- Size of store(s): HBC Alonso De Cordova (the main store) –200m2. Four additional stores average 60m2. At the end of March 2013, two 90m2 stores (Montblanc and Omega) opened in the first luxury sector inside a shopping mall in Chile. Also, Swatch boutique.
- Range of price: USD 1,000 – USD 40,000
- Best-selling watch: Omega Seamaster
Source: Europa Star June - July 2013 Magazine Issue