Richard Louis is not your typical entrepreneur, to say the least. To delve into what individuals such as what Richard does is powerful and complex. When you purchase a timepiece in North America, there are conduits that instigate, engage, and create that experience. In the shadows, so to speak.
In your own words, what is it that you do? How does it work?
Being the Vice President of Sales and Operations at a niche brand, I must look at our business as if it is my own and be an entrepreneur. I oversee the North American market for CWJ Brands - Corum and Eterna, this includes Sales, Marketing, Operations and Brand Strategy. The way this is accomplished is by building a strong team of people who I manage, coach and drive for success in North America.
How did you become the conduit between brands and buyers?
It is no secret that our retail partners love the Corum brand and we constantly strive to build and grow our relationships. I treat each retail partner with the respect and professionalism that I would like to receive from them. It is important to remember to treat people the way you would like to be treated.
Why is it that brands don’t sell directly to distributors?
I think it is important to understand when building a brand, you need the best partner to execute the brand strategy while maintaining the integrity of the brand. With that said it has been common practice to have your own subsidiary in regions around the world.
How is business?
Our business has continued to grow consistently over the past several years, and we are driving sales with our retail partners by developing high quality and unique products that consumers are looking for. Sell through has grown in double digits year over year over year, and consumers have complimented us on our new unique designs, high quality and attention to detail. This has been especially true in our Admiral and Golden Bridge collections.
Which collections are most sought after currently? Why?
Corum has four pillars that make up our collection. They are Admiral, Bubble, Golden Bridge and Heritage, and each pillar is unique. For example, the iconic Golden Bridge, first introduced in 1980, highlights the inner beauty of the timepiece by showcasing its baguette movement built on a bridge of gold. Admiral stands out as well with the use of international sailing flags and wood dials, making this collection the ultimate symbol of sailing. Heritage and Bubble watches are extremely special pieces within the collection and encompass the DNA and history of the brand proving, for both collections, that no one in the world but Corum could produce pieces bearing the hallmark of innovation and technical breakthroughs, such as the Billionaire, Coin and Bubble.
What is it like being a part of that unseen niche of a multimillion-dollar international industry?
Men’s accessories are still not considered as important as women’s accessories, although timepieces are becoming more popular and are growing within our niche industry. We will continue to see growth as consumer-driven product is introduced within the marketplace.
What lessons have you learned from working in such a unique industry?
The biggest lesson I have learned by being in involved in the timepiece industry is to have patience and listen to what retailers, consumers and others outside the industry have to say. It is important to understand how things are changing inside and outside of our small industry and look at indicators to help make better decisions for the future.
How has the market changed over the years?The market has changed dramatically with the increase in internet websites as well as the explosion of social media. Both have grown tremendously and have challenged traditional jewelry business overall. In addition to the internet and social media, the secondary market of pre-owned watches has caused challenges for all brands and retailers.
How do you expect the industry to evolve in the coming years?
I believe brands will need to modernize their thought processes on doing business, while continuing to utilize social media and the internet as tools to enhance our reach and brand recognition, all the while creating stronger relationships with retail partners. In addition, as millennials begin to realize the importance of having the right men’s accessories, such as great timepieces, pens and cufflinks, this will have a positive effect on our industry. Having a smartwatch is a great way to stay connected but having a Corum Golden Bridge on your wrist creates a conversation about art, design, and who you are!