On a year of consolidation and growing its Chinese customer base.
If you could pick a situation in which to hone your retail jewellery talents then going up against 30 other jewellers to attract the passing trade would be a good one. Your windows, your staff, your service and your stock would all have to be spot on.
That is exactly the situation that Wendy Laing has to go through daily in the Argyll Arcade in Glasgow and, believe us, she has honed her talents to an exceptional degree. Of course, it was already in her blood. She is the sixth generation of Laing to join the family business since 1840 and she has more than honoured the name, delivering a year of fantastic growth with turnover up 43% year on year.
In the past year she has overseen the launch of concept store Robert Stewart and expansion of the flagship store as well as bringing in key brands including Crislu, Roberto Coin and Breuning.
Even so, she says the past six months has been about consolidation. “We have grown and expanded a lot since I joined in April 2011. Now we have decided to make sure all areas of the business are working to the optimum to create a platform from which we can look to expand.”
Wendy says confidence is key, something she proved she had in spades earlier this year when she took part in a Strictly Come Dancing-style competition for charity in front of 650 people. While she says her best trait is her ability to talk to anyone (and her worst is her inability to shut up) even she can’t do all the talking for Laings and has hired a language specialist to target an emerging customer base. “This year we have seen an increase in the Chinese customer. We have responded by advertising in a Chinese tour guide map and employing a Mandarin speaker who is invaluable to us now.”
This Chinese custom underlines how important the luxury market is to Laings. And Wendy has some real pedigree in that area, having worked at LVMH from 2000 to 2008. She quit so she could spend more time with her two young children but when they went to school she joined her father in the family business, where we’re hoping she will stay – even if every day is a test to see if she’s Glasgow’s best.
Wendy Laing was selected as an IJL Retail Star in the Professional Jeweller Hot 100 2013 in association with The Company of Master Jewellers. To read a digital version of the book in full online, click here.