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Watch Out for Ethos

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Ethos Swiss Watch Studios, a pioneer in the retailing of luxury watches in india, set up its first store in Chandigarh in 2003. A brainchild of  Y Saboo, the chain is also the largest retailer of swiss watches in the country. The watch market in India is estimated to touch Rs 15,000 crore by 2020.The Chandigarh-based Ethos Swiss Watch Studios is a major player in the retailing of luxury watches in India. Yashovardhan Saboo, an ardent watch enthusiast, launched Ethos in 2003 by opening a flagship store in Sector 8 of Chandigarh.

The business idea for the watch retail chain sprung from Saboo’s desire to share his passion for fine Swiss watches with the Indian connoisseurs, coupled with the opportunities offered by the growing demand for premium watches in the country. He wanted to change the way luxury watches were sold in India and bring to consumers the joy of shopping for luxury watches.

The initial journey of Ethos was fraught with difficulties as Saboo had absolutely no idea about the dynamics of the retail trade, having spent all his business life in manufacturing and technology. The greatest hurdle for Ethos was competition from the grey market. Most retailers offered smuggled watches with better discounts. Saboo recalls it was a constant battle to compete against them with legitimately imported watches while ensuring the customers still got a competitive price. This problem was compounded by dealers often marking the retail price of watches higher than the official rate to offer larger discounts.

The Ethos watch boutiques sell brands such as Rolex, Omega, Breitling, Chopard, Carl F Bucherer, Cartier, and others in the luxury space. In the premium segment, they offer Tag Heuer, Longines, Tissot, Rado, and Seiko, to name a few. In the fashion segment, the brands available include Guess, CK, and Armani.

Ethos is the exclusive retailer in India for Carl F Bucherer, Hermes, Edox, Louis Erard, and Cover.  The Ethos stores follow three distinct design formats. The first is called Ethos Summit which focusses exclusively on luxury watches. Its store design offers enhanced space to each brand, which is vital to convey a sense of luxury and exclusivity. Naturally, the display here is very sophisticated and international, but not intimidating.

The premium stores of the chain, simply called Ethos, house a large number of brands across a wider price range. These are designed in a manner that allows large visibility to the top brands without leaving out the lesser-known brands. The third format is that of smaller stores, meant for entry level products. Fashion watches dominate this segment, in price points up to Rs 50,000. The average size for Ethos Summit and Ethos stores is 800-1,000 sq.ft. while stores catering to the fashion watches segment are slightly smaller. The Rolex mono-boutique at UB City, Bangalore, run by Ethos, is 400 sq.ft. in size while the Chandigarh store spreads across 2,000 sq.ft.

Ethos has positioned itself as the best place to buy premium and luxury watches in India. All its three store formats – fashion, premium, and luxury – cater to a wide spectrum of buyers, from students buying their first-ever watch and corporate honchos looking for the most exclusive watch to the connoisseurs who like to collect trophy watches. Professionals, entrepreneurs, and top achievers are frequent buyers at Ethos.

On the pricing front, Saboo says though they do not assure the lowest prices for the watch brands in India, they do promise genuine and brand new products. Ethos’ marketing initiatives revolve around two principles: “Customer First” and “Customers for Life.” The company also conducts exclusive exhibitions and events to spread knowledge among people about watches.

Saboo says Ethos lays a lot of emphasis on customer service. It has been actively monitoring customer satisfaction through their loyalty programme. Customers are encouraged to share their experiences on the company website.

Ethos hires graduates but more than the educational qualification, the retailer looks for hunger for success and a penchant for selling and communicating with customers. An active rewards and incentives programme for the staff keeps them motivated. The most successful such measure involves a combination of learning and pleasure, such as by taking employees to watch factories in Switzerland.

Saboo says Ethos has a very low attrition rate, especially among store managers. Apart from corporate awards and official recognition for employees who distinguish themselves in the fields of customer service and retail performance, Ethos also arranges for off-site programmes for the staff members for three days in a year, combining learning and adventure.

According to Saboo, Ethos plans to further strengthen its position as the largest retailer of luxury watches in India and is aiming for qualitative growth in the near future. It intends to launch stores in new cities and introduce new watch brands at its outlets.