Michaud The Importance Of Service In Covid-19 Times: Part 1
Laurent Michaud gives us an update on his boutique, and the current health situation. Part 1.
Laurent Michaud, who has run the Michaud boutique in Neuchâtel alongside his sister Marie-Maude since 2010, kindly agreed to answer our questions; about the shop, about Covid-19, and about the relationship between the boutique and its (local) clientele.
Laurent Michaud © Michaud
After lockdown, there was a considerable downturn in the number of trips being taken, and thus in the number of international clients. Does this correspond to what you have observed?
Yes, we lost many of our foreign customers, but they nevertheless comprise a small proportion of our overall clientele, as least as far as the Neuchâtel boutique is concerned. This summer, foreign business travellers were replaced by Swiss tourists, particularly from the German-speaking part of Switzerland.
The situation hasn’t been easy in Verbier either, where, in the high season, foreign clients can account for 80-90% of our business. There too, Swiss clients helped to make up for the lack of foreign visitors, although we weren’t able to reach the same objectives.
Neuchâtel boutique © Michaud
In these strange times, local customers appear to be where you need to focus your efforts. Have you implemented any measures (events, workshops or other initiatives) to promote watchmaking in your boutique?
Local clients have always made up the majority of our customer base. This year hasn’t been conducive to organising events or workshops. But it is nevertheless something we have done for many years, hosting three to four events each year in partnership with brands (for between 50 and 100 people), as well as visits to watch manufactures (with small groups, or private visits for some VIP clients). 2020 has been an unfortunate year, but we are thoroughly looking forward to 2021.
Tudor Black Bay Bronze © WorldTempus/Jordy Bellido
You have a Rolex area in the boutique. Rolex acts as the gateway to fine Swiss watchmaking for novices. How do you go about converting someone who has come into the shop looking for the prestige of a well-known brand into someone who appreciates fine watchmaking for its values and its tradition – for the watch itself, in other words?
I don’t agree with you on that point. Rolex isn’t a gateway to fine watchmaking for novices: Rolex is the very embodiment of Swiss fine watchmaking, for novices and seasoned connoisseurs alike. The brand certainly offers prestige, but the same applies to the majority of major brands today. Luxury, by its very nature, is synonymous with prestige. Every client appreciates the product on its own merits: quality, precision, and the details that make it exceptional. It’s rare that a client who wants a Rolex will be persuaded to buy a different watch, but over time their tastes will evolve, and they may develop an interest in other brands... or they may not. And conversely, many collectors of Haute Horlogerie and complicated watches are also Rolex collectors. It’s a brand they appreciate for the superlative quality of its products.
Rolex corner © WorldTempus/Jordy Bellido
From a client relations point of view, what is your position with regard to online sales, given the current situation?
In the high-end sector in which we operate, and also considering Swiss culture, the idea of buying a luxury item on the internet remains a minority activity. The internet nevertheless provides great visibility, and also enables us to offer additional services for our clients. These days, clients are far better informed about different products, new releases and prices. With an online catalogue, customers can check the availability of a product, reserve it, and contact the point of sale directly. Nevertheless, for jewellery or watches above a certain price point, I’m convinced that the client needs to see it, try it out, experience it in the boutique before they can make up their minds.
In the next few weeks, we will be launching a brand new website based on an e-commerce platform. The approach will not, however, be set up for finalising sales or taking online payments. With the future “Click & Connect” concept, we will expand our online offering to respond to the growing need for flexibility in purchasing. More and more people are looking for the ability to order items after hours, and choose a convenient time to come and collect their purchase. Thus, the new website will offer the option to pre-order the items presented there. A vast selection of watches and jewellery, with availability and price information, can be consulted and added to the shopping basket. Subsequently, a sales adviser will contact clients by telephone or email to finalise the sale and the purchase process. In the majority of cases, the client will then be invited to the boutique to try their chosen items.