Kazakhstan’s promising luxury market

CPP-LUXURY.COM has recently interviewed, exclusively, Igor Makiyevskiy, CEO of Kazakstan’s leading luxury retailer PREMIER METRO GROUP (PMG)

1. What inspired you to set up Premier Metro Group LTD? And why watches?

I traveled to Europe in 1994 and during my visit to Switzerland most of all I was impressed by the Swiss watch industry which actually became not only a hallmark of the country but the part of its cultural heritage. I was very impressed by the combination of the latest technology with historical roots, that’s how the idea to introduce Swiss watches to Kazakhstan market was born. I remember my first business meetings with the watch brands on Basel Exhibition in 1995, when all our presentations started with showing location of Kazakhstan on the world map. The first impression of our potential partners was “This is a huge country, how many times it is bigger than Switzerland?” That was the beginning of our long-term business relationships.

We are the oldest luxury retail company in the Kazakhstan, this year we celebrate 20 years since we established this business. During this time, both Kazakhstan as a nation and our group of companies have come a long way in the development. As well as Kazakhstan has taken a serious role on the world stage, our company has become an important player in the luxury industry with a flawless image aimed at long-term business. The segment of luxury Swiss watches was our first important step in the luxury retail, it takes a special place in our hearts and it has always been our passion.

Nowadays Premier Metro Group is a big holding with different directions including luxury watches (A. Lange & Sohne, Audemars Piguet, Girard-Perregaux, Hublot,  JeanRichard, Jaeger-LeCoultre, Rolex, Ulysse Nardin), diamond jewellery (De Beers and Messika), fashion (Hermes) and luxury mobile phones (Vertu).

2. How important is the presence of a luxury brand in an emerging market with mono-brand retail?

Definitely, the presence of a luxury brand in an emerging market with mono-brand retail is important due to several factors. By our experience mono-brand retail gives a feeling of comfort and exclusivity to the customers, they understand that the brand has a strong image and a long term strategy on the market. Moreover, client can experience brand’s philosophy, history and feel its atmosphere.

3. You are representing some of the world’s leading luxury watches in Kazakhstan. Which is the best performing? Why?

It will not be a surprise to say the best performers on Kazakhstan market are Rolex, Audemars Piguet, Jaeger-LeCoultre and A. Lange & Sohne that redefined horological codes and left a fabulous mark in history by representing unique timepieces which are reinterpretations of traditional complications imbued with technological innovations. This strategy perfectly satisfies client’s desire to underline their distinction among others.

4. In many emerging markets wealthy consumers tend to be less loyal to a particular luxury brand. What is your view on Kazakhstan?

All our clients are different, therefore it is very hard to determine their common preferences or define their level of loyalty. However, we can notice that there is a positive tendency in terms of being conscious consumer, seeking to choose the best product from each brand’s assortment rather than to be a fashion follower.

5. Which are the main differences between the luxury consumer profiles in Astana versus Almaty?

This is a very interesting and a very actual question. Many brands that enters Kazakhstan market decide on whether to open the first boutique in Almaty or Astana. Which city is more significant and valuable in terms of luxury business? The answer is simple – at the moment both of the markets are very important for us, they have its own way of development, they both are quite independent and have their consumer power. Astana is fast developing market with demand more oriented on men products and gift items. It is showing high growth records for the past 10 years. Almaty is more conservative, more saturated market where people have a bigger selection of luxury brands.

6. To what extent luxury is related to lifestyle in Kazakhstan? Is there a luxury lifestyle in Kazakhstan? (i.e. sports clubs, fine dining, entertainment, arts etc.)

Luxury relates to lifestyle in Kazakhstan a lot, as eastern people mentality implies a culture of gift, aspiration for a better level of living, intention to follow latest technology and fashion trends. Therefore, there are many places and entertainment spheres on Kazakhstan market that offer a premium service and particular level of lifestyle.

7. Which is your estimated percentage of the total HNWI consumers who prefer to buy abroad ? What are the reasons behind their preference?

The majority of clients enjoy buying abroad as well as in Kazakhstan. The main motivation which leads to buy abroad is motivation which is hard to compete – vacation mood, relaxing holiday atmosphere, some people buy for good memories, etc. However we try to compete it by the best service for our clients.

8. What are the top three luxury shopping destinations abroad for Kazakhstan nationals?

Basically, it is the same as for many other nationalities – Paris, London, Milano, Dubai, Singapore, and Hong Kong.

9. How has your company performed this year? What are your expectations for the full year?

Our group is showing steady growth of the turnover for the last 5 years. It has been possible due to our leading position on the local market and having portfolio of very strong brands.

10. What is the most important thing for you as a brand representative?

Our primary task is to educate our customers. Being a brand representative we must tell the client a history behind the brand, its philosophy and values. It is important for us to explain how much efforts and time lies behind the process of creation, design and craftsmanship. More and more clients want to purchase a luxury product not only to emphasize their status or impress others, but to experience a high standards of service, to express their individuality, their character, their lifestyle and their dreams. They wish to create a certain image not only of who they are, but also of whom they aim to be.

11. Do you consider adding more luxury brands in your portfolio? Tell us more about your future development plans.

As I mentioned before our main strategy is selective choice of brands for the company portfolio. We do not want to represent many brands, we just aim to represent the best brands. The same time we’re always searching for young brands with a high potential and extraordinary vision. So last year our holding started cooperation with Messika diamond jewellery on Kazakhstan market.

Globally we plan to expand our business in Astana with new points of sales, as we believe in a high potential of this market.

Igor Makiyevskiy, CEO Premier Metro Group, Kazakhstan