Buried at the bottom of Watches of Switzerland Group’s latest financial results (click here for the full report), chief executive Brian Duffy mentioned a new initiative named the Xenia project.
In a statement looking at the remainder of the year, he says: “Looking ahead, we are excited about the planned launch in September 2021 of our Xenia project to further advance the customer experience.”
What is Xenia? WATCHPRO immediately inquired.
The reply was only a little less opaque than Mr Duffy’s original teaser.
A Watches of Switzerland spokesperson told us: “We have developed a reputation for delivering world class customer experience and our Xenia program, which we expect to launch in September, represents the latest elevation of our customer experience offering, taking inspiration from world of luxury hospitality.”
The Watches of Switzerland Group currently has 153 stores across the UK and US, including 42 dedicated mono-brand stores in partnership with Rolex, TAG Heuer, Omega, Breitling, Audemars Piguet, Tudor and Fope.
It could be that Xenia — an ancient Greek concept of hospitality typically translated as ‘guest-friendship’ or ‘ritualized friendship (according to Wikipaedia) — is an even more elevated level of VIP meeting room within existing multibrand stores, but I wonder if it could be something entirely new for the group.
Audemars Piguet has blazed a trail with its AP House concept (pictured top in Hong Kong and below in London), where customers are welcomed to sumptuous lounges that look nothing like retail stores and have barely a watch in sight.
AP House opened in London in late 2019. It is located on the first floor of a building on Bond Street where customers are invited to relax with a premium cocktail, coffee or glass of champagne from the well-stocked bar; relax on boutique hotel-style sofas and peruse the Royal Oaks of their choice.
Other than a plaque and a flag, there is no sign from the street level that the AP House is located upstairs.
Material Good in Manhattan has a similar concept, but selling pre-owned and new watches alongside art and other objects of desire from a first floor boutique space in SoHo.
Could Watches of Switzerland’s Xenia project be something similar?
It would make sense. Audemars Piguet is continuing its roll outs of AP Houses around the world, with the concept arriving in Tokyo, Milan and New York this year, because they are proving so successful.
The direction of travel for all luxury watch retailers is that they struggle to secure more volume of watches, and compensate by increasing average transaction values.
The AP House concept is proving to be highly successful at this.
It is also less expensive to operate from a space above or away from the world’s most expensive retail streets, which improves margins.