LVMH watch retailing unit: Synchrony, is first of a chain

With the debut of Synchrony, the first in what will be a chain of watch retailing units, LVMH Specialty Retail Concepts, a division of LVMH Moet Hennessy Louis Vuitton, has added another new dimension to its retail world.

The first Synchrony unit, a 2,700- square-foot space, was unveiled Nov. 18 at the Glendale Galleria in Glendale, Calif.

“We’ve picked about 50 to 75 locations that we thought would be appropriate and are going after them,” said Frederick W. Wilson Jr., president and chief executive officer of LVMH Specialty Retail Concepts.

“We are a little eclectic in our real estate approach to begin with, but we would like to end up with clusters of stores in areas [of the country].”

Although Wilson declined to provide specifics, he said targeted Synchrony locations include prime cities and major malls in Florida and New York, on the West Coast and in the Midwest.

The second Synchrony store, at 2,500-square-foot unit, is slated to open Jan. 15 in the Mall of America in Minneapolis, Wilson said.

Wilson noted that unlike merchandise at other watch specialty stores, Synchrony’s assortment is grouped by lifestyle and then by brand, rather than just by brand alone.

What allows us to merchandise by brand within category is that our assortment is strong enough and wide enough,” said Helen Neff, senior vice president of merchandising for LVMH.

“When we carry an assortment of bracelet styles within a brand, we make sure that there is enough there to make a statement.”

The categories include sport and active watches, metal bracelet pieces, classic timepieces, finewatches and children’s watches, the latter of which are displayed on an eye-level table that is shaped like a toy top.

The store features more than 3,000 watch styles and 45 brand names, including Adidas, Anne Klein, Emporio Armani, Bebe, Casio, Fossil, Hamilton, Gucci, Dior and Hermes, retailing from $50 to $3,000.

Each brand offers anywhere from 30 to 200 styles. Only one of LVMH’s recently acquired stable of watch brands — Christian Dior — is currently carried in the new store. Wilson said the company plans to bring in more of its brands at a later date.

Shoppers enter the new store, located in the Macy’s wing on the first level of the shopping center, through doors flanking a working watch 8 feet in diameter.

The watch is synchronized with the atomic clock in Denver. The 24 world time zones are displayed on clocks around the store’s interior.

Those familiar with another LVMH concept, its chain of Sephora beauty emporiums, may notice some similarities.

Open-sell is a key element of the format at Synchrony, as it is at Sephora. The majority of watchesare displayed in two open-sell wall units that run the length of either side of the store. The units feature small, box-shaped vitrines, each of which houses an individual watch on a stand, giving consumers easy access to the merchandise. The display units themselves swing out to reveal stock storage space. Fine watches are displayed in more traditional, locked cases in the rear of the store.

The center of the store is dominated by a round cash wrap station and the children’s watch stations. There are also two interactive kiosks with touch-screen computers that display product information, such as instructions for setting various brands of digital watches. Battery replacement for watchespurchased at Synchrony is available on site, for as long as customers own their watches.

A display ranking the top 10 best-selling men’s and women’s watches will be changed weekly and will note fashion trends and new watch inventions.

“We are targeting a younger audience that will be attracted by the bells and whistles of the entertainment aspects of the store,” said Neff. “The product that is there, though, covers a wide range of tastes and will appeal to everyone, from kids to grandparents.”

The store is staffed by 10 to 12 salespeople, who are referred to as “timekeepers” and who wear an informal uniform — a long-sleeved black shirt with Synchrony embroidered on the wrists, a gray vest and a black skirt or pants.

“We are extremely big on customer service,” said Wilson. “Even though this is a freedom-to-shop environment, we are very rich in staffing. We are not cutting back on staffing because of the way we are retailing. Because of the foot traffic, we have planned a high level of staff.”

“The colors are meant to be modern and inviting,” said Wilson. “From the sleekness of the walls to the warmth of the floor colors, we worked very hard to get the right combination.”

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