The Watches of Switzerland Group is well acquainted with the concept of mono-brand store partnerships, with the business operating boutiques on behalf of the likes of Rolex, Omega and Breitling in the United Kingdom and United States, but in a company first the end of 2019 saw the retail giant collaborate with its very first luxury jewellery brand on a striking standalone boutique.
Opening the doors to a flagship on Bond Street, Italian jewellery firm, Fope, launched its debut UK flagship in partnership with the Watches of Switzerland Group.
The Watches of Switzerland Group has been successfully selling Fope jewellery in selected Mappin & Webb and Goldsmiths boutiques across the UK for several years, so when it came to the brand wanting to open a flagship in London, it felt like a natural step for the two businesses to work together on this retailer venture.
“Fope is a fantastic partner of the WOSG and we have collectively celebrated successive growth here in the UK with Fope for a number of years,” reveals Watches of Switzerland Group director, Craig Bolton.
“The stunning boutique in Old Bond Street was a natural step to grow our partnership and opportunity to partner on the UK’s first Fope boutique.”
He continues: “This a venture that we know will be a tremendous success and a fantastic offer for the UK consumer.”
Fope’s flagship in London’s playground for the rich, which opened at the end of November just in time for the lucrative festive trading season, is only the brand’s second store worldwide, with the first being in Venice, Italy.
According to the chief executive officer, this launch has followed 15 years of increasing brand awareness and sales for Fope in the UK, with the company’s success in the British market growing exponentially in the last six to eight years.
Fope boss, Diego Nardin, says on the decision to open a store in partnership with the Watches of Switzerland Group: “The British market has been one of the most important for Fope since we first entered it about 20 years ago. We have established strong business partnerships with the very best jewellers in the UK and working with the Watches of Switzerland Group was an obvious choice.
“Our brand is sold well in select Mappin & Webb and Goldsmith shops, so it was a natural step forward from a mutual satisfaction of sales performances in these stores to opening the flagship boutique in partnership with the Group.”
The Watches of Switzerland Group aims to represent the best in the business, so despite not running a jewellery mono-brand store before, the business jumped at the chance to work with one of the nation’s most successful luxury jewellery brands.
While the Group has moved away from having a brand-heavy offer in its Goldsmiths and Mappin and Webb stores, Fope has continued to be a strong performer and proved a huge success in the company’s showrooms across the UK.
The Flex’it collections within the brand’s Eka range are particularly popular with the Group’s customers.
“Fope is a very important part of our jewellery business and offers a beautiful USP within the marketplace,” says Bolton. “Fope offers both luxury style and everyday ‘wearability’ which has proved to be a huge success within both our Goldsmiths and Mappin & Webb showrooms.
“We are confident that this formula will be expanded further by offering more UK exclusive collections within a breath-taking environment making the Old Bond Street boutique and absolute ‘must’ for any jewellery lover.”
The interior of the Bond Street store has been designed by renowned Italian architect Flavio Albanese at his Asastudio and it features all the elements of Fope’s brand identity. As such, design details include sharp lines, soft tones of green, representing Fope’s distinctive brand colour palette launched at Baselworld last year, and an Italian elegance with a London twist.
“I think the design team have achieved an amazing result by introducing and balancing signature British elements, distinctive marks of the Fope style and references to Italian design from the 50s,” the brand’s CEO remarks.
He continues: “Fope launched a huge rebranding at Baselworld 2019. The main elements can be found in the new boutique, starting from the brand colours, which play a major role in the interior design.”
The double luminous windows provide plenty of natural light, while the furniture has been custom-designed to reflect the renowned Italian style. Meanwhile the fine jewellery creations do the talking inside the store.
In fact, many pieces of jewellery have been created as exclusive creations for the UK boutique, including a one-off diamond-adorned Flex’it necklace.
“The new beautifully designed Fope boutique allows our fantastic client base to step into an Italian luxury house right here in Old Bond Street for an immersive brand experience like no other,” says Bolton, adding: “Fope’s branding and jewellery is accompanied by the retail expertise of our world class Mappin & Webb retail teams offering exceptional customer service and knowledge.”
On a practical level, the Watches of Switzerland Group and Fope have worked together to offer the best representation of the brand’s jewellery collections. This has included training sales staff, promoting the new boutique, and striving to deliver an unrivalled customer experience.
“Strategy is mutually agreed through an ongoing conversation and our UK team have dedicated resources to support WOSG extensively,” says Nardin.
The first year in business together will be all about establishing the Fope boutique as a go-to destination for the UK’s jewellery lovers.
“We aim to offer our loyal client base an enhanced experience with superior stunning collections and also to welcome new clients to the iconic boutique,” says Bolton, with Nardin adding: “We have sold our jewellery through WOSG in London for several years and sales performance has been very positive. We trust the flagship store will provide a new kind of shopping experience, giving customers an opportunity to enter the Fope world, understand the brand’s values and view an extensive selection of jewellery and watches.”
When asked how they plan to make the Fope boutique stand out on the competitive Bond Street, Nardin responds: “We don’t feel any competition with other brands sold in Old Bond Street as our collections are very different from all the others. Our jewellery stands out thanks to its distinctive design. When choosing a Fope piece, you are choosing a very elegant and exclusive piece of jewellery which has been crafted in Italy with our unique and patented design.”
Bolton adds: “Our product range will also satisfy every clients need, being the first to bring to the UK more limited and exclusive collections that are absolute show-stoppers, including one-of-a-kind pieces and Lady FOPE gold cocktail watches. There will also be a wider core assortment making this boutique the ‘go to’ place for any Fope enthusiast.”
Looking ahead, both parties say they would not rule out another Fope boutique being opened in the future, but for now the focus is well and truly on the debut flagship.
Nardin comments: “Our business model stands on the importance of one to one relationships that we establish with our stockists (and there are more than 600 in the world) and we have no intentions of changing this.
“We will only consider new openings of flagship stores if and where there will be opportunities to increase visibility and brand awareness”
“We are proud to partner with the world’s most prestigious brands and are confident that our fantastic collaboration will be a huge success with Fope,” explains Bolton.
“We like to have healthy discussion with our partners about new and exciting opportunities throughout the year to capitalise on market leading boutiques or collaborations to offer industry leading experiences to our loyal client base.”
Fope is certainly a brand to watch in the UK market as it continues to go from strength to strength with its retail partners and has opened its first boutique in London with confidence.
Now in its 90th year, the brand has really created a niche for itself in the jewellery industry, yet continues to innovate and introduce newness each year.
Speaking on the Italian brand’s plans for the next 12 months, Fope’s chief executive officer, Diego Nardin, concludes: “We expect to maintain our current upwards trend and continue to grow in all international markets, while consolidating our presence in key countries such the UK.”