Q&A: Peter Stas, Frederique Constant

Frederique Constant chief executive Peter Stas

The watch brand’s chief executive on relaunching in the UK market.

Frederique Constant has an image problem in the UK and chief executive Peter Stas is working with new distributor Argento Fine Products on changing the perception of the brand as mid market to affordable luxury. He tells Professional Jeweller how he is going to go about it.

Frederique Constant has been in the UK for a while, so why is 2010 the right time for an aggressive expansion campaign?
We’ve never been able to find the right [distribution] partner, but now we’re working with Argento Fine Products and we’re happy to invest in the brand.

How many doors would you like to open in the UK?
At the moment we have 40 points of sale in the UK and we want to grow this to 120 points of sale within three years. At the moment the UK only accounts for less than 0.5 percent of our business. We want to grow this to between 3 percent within three to five years, which is more comparable to other countries in Europe.

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At present your brand faces the problem of being wrongly perceived as lower quality because of the affordable price points. How do you plan to change consumers’ and retailers’ minds?
“The brand name is unknown so we’re going to market the company in trade magazines, through a digital campaign accessible in English, in newspapers, at in-store events and at thematic events, such as the Healey Drivers Club. We’re serious about the UK market and we want to relaunch here like it’s a new market for us. It cannot be done over night; it usually takes three years and then sales will follow automatically.”

What sort of retail outlets would you like Frederique Constant to be stocked in?
“We’re talking about multiples such as Fraser Hart and Goldsmiths as well as independents. Internationally we have 30 percent multiples and 70 percent independents, but because of the structure in the UK I’m not sure that we can have similar in the UK, it might be more 50-50.”

Outside of the UK, how is Frederique Constant performing on the international market?
“In 2009 only two markets dropped for us, which were Russia and Japan. The US is not so important for us so we didn’t see a drop. Russia has bounced back but Japan is very bad as luxury is severely down.”

The brand is sold in 1,900 points of sale in 85 countries. Do you think you’ve reached a peak?
“No, we still have sufficient room to grow if you compare it with other brands such as Maurice Lacroix which has 5,000 points of sale and TAG Heuer which has 7,500 to 8,000.”

You have forecast that 2010 will be a record year for the brand and that sales in Q1 have already beaten last year by 40 percent. When did business start to pick up?
“Since Fall last year we have had very good results and this has continued. We saw big growth at Basel.”

How has the recession affected the brand?
During the crisis retailers have not done enough high-end sales so they have come to us. It’s allowed us to enter more high-end jewellers. We have a factory in Geneva but we offer prices in accessible luxury.

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