High end independent jewellers in the Houlden Group network are providing click-and-collect services to The Watch Gallery, the UK’s biggest online retailer of luxury watches.
The Watch Gallery is the online storefront for DM London, which also manages the watch department of Selfridges in London and Manchester.
The web site sells 36 high end watch brands ranging from sub-£500 brands like 88 Rue De Rhone and Dreyfuss & Co.; up to Vacheron Constantin, Roger Dubuis, IWC and Parmigiani with six-figure price tags.
Houlden is a group of high end independent retailers that uses their collective buying power and industry stature to secure the sort of deals with top brands that are typically reserved for major multiples.
Customers shopping on The Watch Gallery’s web site are invited to browse and buy for watches online, but to collect the watches in store at Houlden group retailers around the country.
For example, a shopper might select a Breitling Navitimer costing £5760 from Watchgallery.com, and select a jeweller in their home town of Blackpool to collect it from. The Watch Gallery would identify Leonard Dews as the nearest store, and direct the customer to collect it from there.
Leonard Dews takes a commission on the sale and, perhaps more importantly, has the chance to forge a positive relationship with the Breitling customer.
The click and collect service was piloted over the past year with a number of Houlden-affiliated stores, including Laings of Glasgow and has since been rolled out to all Houlden Group members.
Stuart Laing, chief executive of Houlden Group and owner of Laings of Glasgow, explains how the project came about: “The idea came up when David Coleridge [chairman of DM London] and I were speaking about online sales for luxury watches. The Watch Gallery felt it was losing market share to the online stores of the major multiples because it did not have a nationwide network of shops. So we offered to help as a group, bearing in mind the importance of each member’s watch business, which also don’t want to lose out to online competitors. Working together looked like the perfect solution for both of us,” Laing tells WatchPro when we called him to reveal more about the initiative.
“The partnership between Watch Gallery and Laings meant that customers could click-and-collect from our boutiques in Glasgow, but the idea really comes alive when you include all Houlden members, which means customers can buy online and collect from store almost anywhere in the UK,” adds Laing.
While Houlden retailers are fiercely protective of the brand strength they have built up in their local communities, Laing believes they are prepared to work with The Watch Gallery online because of the scale of the DM London-owned business. “Houlden jewellers are great businesses and brands in their own right, but they will struggle to compete with an operation the size of Watch Gallery. For example, it is difficult for Laings of Glasgow to get to the top of a Google search for a luxury watch brand, but Watch Gallery can,” he explains.
The volume of watches sold via the click-and-collect initiative is relatively small today, Laing admits, but believes sales will pick up in time. “We see this as a three year project,” he concludes.
Read more about this deal and other news from Houlden Group and Laings of Glasgow in the June issue of WatchPro