Last year saw Accurist, a watch brand established by the Loftus family in London’s Clerkenwell district in 1946, leave family ownership for the first time in the company’s history.
The brand was acquired by Marcus Margulies’ Time Products empire, which owns Sekonda and Limit watch brands as well as the operating Hublot’s UK boutique and the Marcus boutique (both on London’s Bond Street) and Almar, a watch store in Burlington Arcade.
“We all felt that it was the perfect fit, with Limit covering the lower price points followed by Sekonda,” said Trevor James, Accurist brand director. “We feel that Accurist will cover the mid-price points and upwards. We knew it fell naturally into our portfolio of British watch brands.”
But there was work to be done, not only to integrate Accurist into the Time Product’s vast logistics and service operation based in Leicester, but to carry out a series of fundamental tweaks to the historic brand.
“The brand had not been given as much devotion as it had seen in previous years,” explains James. “The number of new models introduced in the year leading up to the acquisition was down on previous years. We saw the potential in the brand and we were confident we could turn this around under our management.”
As soon as the acquisition went through in March last year the new Accurist management team set to work, determined to “refresh and modernise” the brand.
“We decided at an early stage to involve our brand agency to help develop a new logo along with new advertising creatives and packaging designs. At the same time we also briefed our display company to design new displays.
“Accurist always had a contemporary feel and we wanted to return to its roots. It was important that we replaced the display stands within our key multiple retailers at the earliest opportunity as this gave us the platform to showcase the new look Accurist”.
The new-look stands and point of sales displays were well-received and gave the Accurist team the confidence that they had embarked on the correct visual path for the brand, but they were left with a much more fundamental decision to make when it came to online sales and the importance they played in the strategy of the business.
“Whilst we do understand that the internet has an important role to play in today’s business environment we felt that the brand was over-exposed. This exposure was affecting the integrity of the brand and therefore we had to make the decision to review our overall internet presence. We are now working with a select customer base which is more manageable and gives us the opportunity of experimenting with new ideas in line with the on-going development of the brand. This is definitely an area that will continue to expand and we now feel we are in a better position to maximise this opportunity. This strategy has already opened up opportunities with key multiple and independent retailers.”
Of course, new product needed to be developed and Accurist strengthened its design team, taking on an extra designer. Long lead times from inherited suppliers meant it was vital to get the ball rolling as quickly as possible in order to have new product in stores ahead of the Christmas rush.
“Andrew Loftus [Accurist’s previous chairman and owner] introduced some fantastic product ranges, some of which are still available today. We built on these ranges by developing and introducing new products that expanded all areas of the range including vintage and classic collections, however the main thrust of newness was concentrated towards contemporary designs. We had to move quickly because taking over at the end of March, some of the suppliers we inherited with Accurist have longer lead times, in some cases six months. It was extremely important that we introduced new designs reflecting the newly relaunched brand prior to Christmas.”
The new designs were turned around in time for the busy Christmas period and James describes that achievement as helping Accurist ‘turn the corner’.
“We saw quite a change in fortunes from October onwards,” he states. “Pluses rather than minuses and we pulled back a lot of business by the end of the year. From these early successes we continued to develop along these lines incorporating a contemporary feel.”
The core of Accurist’s product offer now sits between £50 and £160, with the higher price point reflecting the fact that its new gents watches are now all made of stainless steel. Accurist’s existing 9ct gold collection has also been expanded with two new models with prices ranging from £375 and £1,500.
“We are working with all of the existing suppliers that Accurist had plus some Sekonda ones as well. Each supplier can work with every material so it’s down to the quality of the supplier. Generally the product was a very high specification but they had over recent years introduced some lower priced models, which we have now discontinued. We want to ensure that we use the best materials but still offer extremely competitive price points.”
“Andrew was the best in the business for product design, he has an incredible eye for product and we want to make sure we continue this legacy”
This was quickly followed by the one-two punch of a ‘phenomenal’ launch in Spring this year coupled with an Autumn 2015 launch that has achieved a similar reaction among buyers.
The next task Accurist’s new owners had to achieve was to integrate its new brand into Time Products’ vast, industry-leading support and servicing operation based in Leicester. For Sekonda the facility is, in some cases, able to offer servicing to watches up to 40 years old. This capacity is the envy of many watch brands and unequalled by even luxury watch manufacturers. Time Products wanted to be able to offer a similar level of support to Accurist retailers and their customers.
“We knew it was going to be hard and we did have a number of unexpected issues,” states James. “The service side was one that caused concern as there was a backlog of Accurist watches waiting to be sorted which we inherited and then we obviously received additional repairs on a daily basis.
“We did not have enough spare parts to service Accurist watches and whilst we ordered and dismantled many watches for parts, we did have a quite a back log. We pride ourselves on this service with Sekonda as we feel we have a spares department that is second-to-none. In most cases we can service a watch for its life. We are pleased to say that the service backup for Accurist is really coming up to speed and it is getting to where we want it to be, which is at the same level as Sekonda.”
Having ‘steadied the ship’, Accurist is now in a strong position to increase the number of doors it has in the UK.
“People are investing in bricks and mortar and staffing, there are a lot of costs involved and this showcases the brand, so we want to support [physical retailers] and maintain integrity. We are developing all areas of our business and looking at all opportunities, however we are not trying to run before we can walk.”
But growing the business across the UK won’t be achieved through a strong product offer alone. Accurist has stepped up its support for retailers by appointing a field sales manager and upping its region sales force from one to four salesmen. The strategy has helped Accurist develop stronger relationships with the multiples.
Tony Leyland, sales manager of Accurist, adds: “Since we took over the brand we’ve opened up 145 new independent accounts. 100 of those are since February this year.”
In the run-up to Accurist’s second Christmas period under new management that support is being ramped up with a television advertising campaign. James explains: “Last year, even though we had just taken over the brand, we invested a substantial amount on press advertising to launch our new look. This year we are going back on to TV with a national advertising campaign. The campaign will be on ITV and launched at the end of November running through until Christmas. We are very excited about this new advert which we feel captures the contemporary look of the brand as well as its British heritage.”
With an unbroken British history dating back to 1946, a contemporary new aesthetic and the proven track record of its new owners, Accurist now looks in a strong position to launch into the next chapter of its story.