Oh Tourneau, how far you’ve come from being the world’s most important watch retailer to the equivalent of a fancy candy store. There was a time when your incredible deployment of watch stores was the most important place for a high end watch to be. Your large distribution of locations carries some of the best brands in the world. To bad it mostly only looks nice.

Enter these establishments to be met with mostly sales goons. Like lurking sharks they circle looking for a bite. Enter their lair and reveal anything but and instant desire to buy, and be met with an attitude of the likes you’ll prefer to swing a fist at. I’ve actually muttered before “You realize that in the event I was going to buy, I am not going to now, or ever from you.”

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On one occasion an enterprising member of their “force” actually asked me for a job realizing I was someone who knew about watches. “Come on Ariel, you’d help me out if you have a need for me right?” I kid you not, this actually happened. My empathy soars for these poor chaps. It is one thing to not know anything about watches, it is another thing to be an outright unpleasant presence in the store. I much prefer being asked for work than dealing with one of their sales snobs (who have no basis for being snobby I assure you).

tourneau-time-dome-las-vegas-3Photo credit: Tourneau

Let me stop for a moment to make a few clarifications. One, I don’t have a problem per se with Tourneau. Two, there are plenty of good people at Tourneau from sales people to managers. Three, I voice these sentiments as a message to Tourneau because I genuinely want them to improve. They have so much to work with.

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Apparently, I am not alone in my feelings. Tourneau knows that times need a-changin’. Gone are the lovely days of yore when their business model was sufficient. I anticipate that sales are down, compensation for staff is poor, and the only people who are hired aren’t qualified enough to do the job, and that there are other issues to boot. It was not until this last year when Tourneau’s online presence seemed anything more than symbolic (their site does have a degree of e-commerce present right now, but it feels wonky). The company needs change.

There are high hopes for newly appointed CEO James (Jim) Seuss. He won’t start until March 1st 2010, but he will surely have his work cut out for him. The obvious sharing of his name with Dr Seuss got me thinking…. Whosits and whasits, and mechanica galore, this man’ll need to be a genius to save that ol’ store.

Perhaps it is a friendly coincidence that Dr. Seuss’s imaginative machinery and artistic creations relied much on the imagery of clockwork and gears so frequently. Like the image here from the tale of the Sneetches – can James Seuss put efforts in the proverbial Tourneau machine and result with happy (star bellied) output? Seuss has a good history in luxury and global retail. Past placements had high positions at Nike, Cole Haan, Tiffany & Co, and Harry Winston.

A statement by Seuss indicates that he “[looks forward] to building the Company’s reach as the world’s leading watch authority.” The implication is that he realizes Tourneau is not there right now. Bonus for them is that Tourneau has preexisting relationships with virtually all major watch brands as well as foot holds across the world. Tourneau also has a heavy amount of window and foot traffic. Let’s just hope that someone realizes their sales people hiring and training practices need a serious overhaul.

Tourneau has a few things it seriously needs to do in the short run. First, it needs to examine its relationship with the Internet. They need to rely on it as a sales tool, as opposed to an afterthought. Like others have done, they need to have a 24-hour “concierge” service where people can call in, talk to a qualified expert who can and will sell them watches – giving the process that personalized, educated touch. Careful on not making them too pushy with aggressive incentive systems. Don’t forget, you are trying to be an “authority” not telemarketers.

Related to this, they need to hire less people in their stores and place more emphasis in training each individually. Have each person in the store eventually cover just a few brands. Allow them to know 3-5 brands really well, rather than be expect to know everything. Focus on the consultative approach, make conservation, and don’t be a snobby douche to the consumer. It is OK if they don’t buy a watch right then and there. People don’t always buy watches like they do impulse items at the super market like chewing gum. Guess what, Mr. deep pockets over there didn’t make his money by spending it all over the place willy-nilly.

Lastly, Tourneau needs to leverage their presence. Make the store itself a destination. Have appealing displays, discuss interesting watches and technology. Move away from the crowded, cluttered watch cases where no specific timepiece can standout. Do all this Tourneau, and then let’s talk. Until then Mr. Seuss, good luck until March. I’ll be seeing you…. Please wear a “Cat in the Hat” hat on your first day of work, I implore you. Tourneau

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