In the ten years since its Bond Street store was first opened by Dino D’Auria and brothers Ariel and Joseph Banin, Frost of London has firmly established itself as a respected luxury jeweller, boasting an impressive client list and host of industry awards.
After a decade trading from its Bond Street home, however, the time has come for change, and the company recently elected to swap the old boutique for a new premises on Brook Street. Location wise the move does not present much of a shift – the new store is just around the corner – but it offers a wealth of business boosting benefits.
Chief amongst these is undoubtedly the 50% extra available retail space, with the new store set across six floors, including a roof which offers impressive views onto the street below. This increase in space means there is now room for an entire floor dedicated to Franck Muller, of whose products Frost of London is now the exclusive UK distributor, in addition to two floors hosting a range of both established and emerging brands, and a brand new VIP dining room.
And although it is just a stone’s throw away from the old shop, one of the other big perks of the move is the increased exposure that the new location offers.
“All the experienced drivers come this way when they’re dropping off their clients, so they’re going to see our shop,” explains company director, Dino D’Auria. “Whereas the old shop they wouldn’t see.”
“You can see the views, positioning wise, although its only four shops around the corner, it’s a massive change,” he says, adding: “I mean the footfall’s much better, we can put ten brands in the window as opposed to six and you can pretty much build it as you want, so it’s purpose built for exactly our needs.”
D’Auria also highlights the importance of other jewellery stores moving into the same street; Brown’s, for example, are set to move to a new location just down the street from Frost of London’s new home.
“I think Brook Street is the next big street, if I’m honest. It looks good for us because it looks like Brown’s are copying us, which they’re not — they probably had the new location sorted out ages ago.”
“But for us,” he continues, “we’ve got Claridges, Frost of London and Brown’s on the same street and then you’ve got cool little boutiques, so it’s got a great feel about it.”
There’s some impressive history to the new location as well; not only did Jimi Hendrix and George Frederic Handel both used to live directly across the street, but D’Auria was amazed to learn that Winston Churchill used to have his hair cut in the very same building as the store, something which he described as “empowering”.
In more recent history, the previous tenants of the building, Alessi, asked if the old staircase could be retained during the renovation, given that it was designed by Giovanni Alessi himself. D’Auria was happy to oblige, commenting that it was good to “keep a bit of character of the old place”.
“I think all in all it’s just a better feel,” he tells Professional Jeweller, talking about the new store in general. “When you take clients through and give them the tour, you end up on the roof having a chat, you find yourself having a different conversation. They’ve opened up, they’re in your house, they’re comfortable, and they’re talking business ideas — they weren’t having these conversations in the old place.”
A decade is a long time to spend in any place, so even if the relocation is only a few metres around the corner, you’d have forgiven D’Auria for feeling a shade of sentimentality about the move. But contrary to even his own expectations, the director says he’s been largely unaffected by leaving the old home on Bond Street behind.
“I loved the other shop, and I thought I’d be sort of emotional after ten years… but I’ve felt nothing! I haven’t even thought of it,” he confesses.
And that lack of emotion may very well have something to do with the instant reaction the new boutique has provoked from customers — with D’Auria describing the early response as ‘phenomenal’.
He concedes that business in the first half of the year before the move had been ‘terrible’ but says that the first month in Brook Street was the company’s best so far this year. And things are looking promising for the near future too, with D’Auria expecting business from a lot of his Middle Eastern clients, including royalty, over the summer.
When asked what he thought was the key to survival in today’s market, D’Auria did not hesitate to highlight the significance of hard work, claiming that without hard graft the company wouldn’t be where they were. But he was also quick to point out the importance of creating a more personal experience for clients.
“Pretty much they (customers) want their own jeweller,” he explains. “I think that if they feel comfortable somewhere and they know the staff, and the staff are very personable, that’s ideal.
“So the easiest way to think of it is we want to make it more like being part of the Frost family, as opposed to a client — so they’re friends, part of the family and clients at the same time.”
And the new store gives Frost of London plenty of scope to play into this philosophy. Perhaps one of the most exciting new features is the dining room, which has already been used for client afternoon teas and will play host to a series of dinners in the near future.
“We’ve never done client dinners before, we’re actually doing one for the first time next month, which is really exciting,” D’Auria reveals.
He continues: “We’ve got great customers so I think it will be a more intimate experience, and we’ve got a top jeweller, Robert Procop, coming in.
“He does some exceptional stuff working with exceptional stones, he sources his own, polishes it and follows the whole process through which is a phenomenal experience, and he’s going to be sitting with eleven of our clients in the dining room.”
And even when it’s not being used for events, the dining room offers other benefits too; for one it makes staff communication easier, something that D’Auria says can’t be underestimated.
“12 people can sit round (the table), which means I can sit with all my staff at once, whereas in the other place I couldn’t do that. I’d have to talk to them in twos and threes. Now we can all sit down, everyone can get their frustrations out, and it’s just much more productive,” he shares.
The director continues: “The way I see it, there’s things I wanted to implement in the old shop for five years, but just had to give up, but in here we’ve done it within two weeks!”
With the new location offering such vastly increased retail space, you might imagine that the directors would be picking out a host of new brands to stock. But as D’Auria explains, the opposite was in fact true.
He says that when the relocation was being planned he and his fellow directors were actually deciding which brands not to continue with. He concedes that opting which brands to drop can be a difficult choice, but thinks that offering a slightly more select choice can be more rewarding for both staff and clients.
“Two or three years ago we had 45 brands, and although it’s great, it’s not fair on the staff to learn 45 brands — you can’t do it justice. So we went down to about 30, maybe 35 and then with the jump over here, because we thought we wanted to give everyone a purpose and a real home, we’ve gone down to 20 and then back up to about 23.”
And he thinks that having more focus on less brands can be extremely beneficial, claiming that too much choice can be overwhelming for customers and the opposite of what they actually want.
One change that he would like to see in terms of the brands that are stocked, however, is more British representation. He claims that the jewellery market in the UK at the moment is not in the healthiest state, but that he would love for things to improve.
“I think they’re struggling for ideas, I think they’re struggling to get their personality out, I think they’re struggling to get their message across,” D’Auria says, regarding British brands. “Personally I think France are taking over, or even Italy.”
He continues: “I think London jewellers need to get their personality out a bit more. In the UK we’re a bit more understated and we don’t like being brash or show-offy, that’s not our style, but I feel like if this is not working we’ve got to change something.
“But I’d love to stock more British brand. That’s why we called it Frost of London — we’re very proud to be from Britain.”
As far as the rest of the year goes, D’Auria says that his immediate plan is simply to settle into the new surroundings and enjoy the new home, and for the whole staff to work twice as hard as they did in the old store. Beyond that he said that the company was planning on working with “bigger items, bigger stones and bigger projects” while also looking forward to interesting designs with Franck Muller, and the “fantastic” addition of Robert Procop. All in all then, there looks to be plenty to look forward to in the new store.
MAIN IMAGE CREDIT: Kalory