Friday, February 2, 2018

Alas poor Tourneau, I knew them Horatio...

Yes, the clock finally struck midnight for Tourneau and their mail is now being forwarded to Lucerne, Switzerland.  Tourneau's search for a buyer has not exactly been a closely kept secret in the watch industry.  The biggest problem is that with the watch business in the current state it is in, there might not have been too many takers.  Let's be honest, I'd have been writing about this some time ago if there had been.  And as an alum of Tourneau U (albeit a very short tenure), I feel I am in a somewhat different position to lend some feedback on this.  

Tourneau, as it exists right now, is not in great shape.  While I have not seen the books, I have certainly spent enough time in several of their retail outlets to have observed a few realities:

1.  Traffic -
The traffic is low.  I have been in several locations on both coasts and the traffic just isn't there.  

2.  Location - 
Another sticking point could be what could be considered "unusual" location choices.  Here in the Boston Metro area there is a beautiful location on the Copley Center.  The only problem is that the Copley Center is not exactly easy to locate and navigate.  Which means that it needs to be a bit of a destination.    That certainly isn't the worst thing in the world, but the concept of Tourneau is not that of a destination.  The concept is "Here we are, easy to find".  The second location in Massachusetts is out in Burlington at the Burlington Mall.  While this is certainly a destination shopping center (if you are interested in clothing and less expensive lifestyle items), it is clearly catering to a different demographic. 

3.  Selection and Presentation -
I have been on both sides of the display case, and I know that sometimes it is challenging to work with what you've got to sell, but it is made even more challenging when you are in a less-than sexy environment.  With sales figures down, it is understandable that it is tough to justify tidying up the store with new carpet, etc., but it is important to work with what you have.  And unfortunately, some of the locations just aren't that inviting.  

Back in the day, Tourneau was the Elephant that you were desperate to bag.  You needed to be in there if you wanted to piss in the tall weeds with the other big dogs.  And that usually meant some pretty extreme terms including memo, fairly hefty co-op advertising costs, etc.

And as the brand owner?  You were often willing to go to those lengths because back in the good old days, being in the display case at a Tourneau was perhaps even more beneficial than being featured on the "Instafamous du jour" social media feed.  But times change.

One other important thing to consider is staff.  Simply put, retail, at pretty much any level, is not always considered a "career choice" here in the US.  It is often viewed as more of a "career settlement", one that is hoped to be short-term by the incumbent.  If you ever go to a jeweler in Switzerland you are going to have a very, very different experience.  Well groomed, professional, engaged.  And KNOWLEDGEABLE.  It will be interesting to see if this esprit de corps trickles down.  There are some phenomenal sales people in the US watch retail business, but it is a dying breed.  

But then again, maybe this could be a turning point.  There is an opportunity to do a few things:

A.  Put the Tourneau house in order.  Make some tough decisions about what is working and what is not in terms of locations.

B.  Stop looking for short-term solutions with a revolving door of staff.  Focus on recruiting, retaining and developing high quality team members.

C.  Adopt some understanding from the Bucherer model.  Make the shopping experience special at ALL of your locations.

We shall wait, and we shall see, but Bucherer will need to accept the reality of the situation with their shiny-new purchase.  Because if they leave it as it is, it is a tragically wasted opportunity.

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