The specifics of the Serbian luxury market – an exclusive interview with General Manager of S&L
Milica Raicevic is the General Manager of S&L, leading luxury jewellery and watches retailer in Serbia, one of the most experience luxury professionals in Serbia.
S&L is today the leading luxury watches and jewellery distributor in Serbia. When was the company founded and what was the motivation behind its set up ?
Company S&L doo is founded in 1999 by Jokic family that has been leader in jewellery and gemmology production and trade many years before. The decision to begin with watch business was idea of our owner Mr. Jokic to develop jewellery business .Today S&L doo serve around 270 POS among the best selected watches and jewellery stores and represents many brands from the watch industry . Also we are very proud to say that today we are leading company in luxury watch segment as well.
Our motivation was, and still is, to explore the market , to follow the general watch market , all trends to implement new ideas , to be innovator at the market , to learn from the mistakes, to use opportunities.
Which are the best selling luxury brands from your current portfolio?
a. Audermars Piguet
c. Chopard (both watches and jewellery)
d. Cartier (watches and accessories)
Its difficult to say as brands are not that comparable , there is analyze behind each result ; also I have to explain that price range is different ,for example, for Audemars Piguet there are limited models that immediately make difference to volume. I would prefer to explain this differently , if we are speaking about the watch brand that has quite a volume in terms of pieces, then it would be Breitling as this is the watch that even young male population start to buy from age of 18. Almost each of our customers has at least one Breitling watch in collection and it was almost always the first watch. On the other side we have brand that has in portfolio watches, jewellery , accessories, sunglasses then it’s with no doubt Chopard as the very important brand from our portfolio.
Why Rolex is not part of your portfolio? Do you see a future possible collaboration? What do you think about their current representation in Serbia?
I’m not surprised about the question at all, we all know importance of Rolex.We never addressed Rolex so far . Our focus is to work with the brands we have in our portfolio ,to develop the brands , market. My personal opinion is that one POS for Rolex for the time being is enough . I think that Serbian dealer is doing well,specially today when he moved from previous location to boutique.
How mature do you think is the Serbian luxury market ? What are the most important categories of consumers ?
I have to say that people are very well informed about the brands I mean generally speaking about luxury brands , Serbian customers are very well informed and educated and they know exactly what they are buying. When we are speaking about the market generally it just started to develop as, for example, fashion brands just started to open shops in Belgrade , we can say that watches were pioneers at the market as when we look to all luxury segment in general you will find in Serbia at the first place well known watch brands from luxury segment. Fashion just started to enter but it seems that this field from the information we have will develop a lot and we are looking forward to .Since we are not market that is oriented to tourist but to local customers , normally in luxury segment we are addressing to our target group which are local reach customers.
What do you think is the most efficient marketing tool in reaching luxury consumers in Serbia ?
The best sales and marketing strategy is direct approach and communication. We know our customers personally and we try to penetrate their social groups and attend their special events. We want to make sure we reach the truly wealthy consumers. Also, part of our approach is direct sales.
What is your immediate and mid term business strategy?
This year, we shall further optimize and restructure our business in such a way to reach the best performance. We do not see any significant growth in sales for the coming year. This year, we plan to re-open our store in Knez Mihailova street. The shop will cover 60 sqm and will include just luxury brands, as I said before that Chopard is very important brand from our portfolio , huge segment will be given to this brand. The reason for the reopening is new concept of the shop as this shops will be our VIP POS, we are basically now placing this shop in to real function that was the aim from the opening . Our strategy was to divide luxury brands from the other business and our plan is to work more on each segment .
Which are the best type of retail locations for your business ? What do you think about street location versus mall?
It depends on the products – brands that shop will represent , also it depends of the environment of the shop area . We have situation in which Shopping Mall has better representation of the brands then central main street , situation is changing a bit lately, but we are always takeing care about the most important factor which is environment and target group we are addressing to . Generally Malls are in trend currently , especially if it has such a perfect location like Shopping Center Usce has with the parking space that is main advantage comparing to downtown. Our company has two different shops in the Shopping Center Usce, one that is representing just luxury brands and second one that is done in light concept and that is representing fashion brands so you see that even at the same location we are making the deference depending of the target group we are addressing to.We are sure that Knez Mihailova as the best street location with brand that will for sure sooner and later come at the market would be the most important zone for luxury business.
What are your company’s direct competitors and how do you approach competition? What are your major competitive advantages?
Since we are very strong in wholesale business our strongest competitor in this segment is company that is representing brands that are direct competitive to each other ( Fossil vs. Esprit etc) , speaking about luxury segment companies that are representing same brands like us are of course direct competitors but situation lately changed a lot and will change more when we reopen in 2 weeks our shop in downtown. Our main advantage in wholesale business is at the first place brand portfolio , then our stabile business , stabile deliveries , stock , very good sale team ,service , spare parts. Our advantage are S&L chain retail shops as the most beautiful shops in Serbia, our shops are representing beside brands that we are doing distribution , jewellery from our own production, then brands from the mid segment like Longines, Rado… In luxury segment our main advantage is at the first place brand portfolio , stabile business , brands are represented on high level with a lot SKU per collections , marketing investment and very important After Sales Service.
Most retailers in emerging markets face the challenge of consumers preferring to buy abroad. How do you approach this issue and how do you persuade consumers to buy locally?
That is a problem we are facing but we are working a lot on the brand image as I explained we are taking care to have all newest models from each brands , we keep recommended prices we are working a lot with our sale team and most important we are taking care about our customers so we are trying to keep atmosphere that for brands we are representing there is no need to go abroad
How important is customer service and what do you think about the current human resources available for luxury retail in Serbia ?
Importance of customer service is seen in my previous answer(question 8 ) when I stated that After Sales Service is our company advantage. We are at the moment the only company that has invested in serious service centre . S&L doo is the youngest company in this field but the first one to understand importance of service and first one to invest in . Regarding the human resources it’s not easy , actually it’s very difficult but we are also investing a lot in our sale team and when I look at our current team in our shop in Shopping Mall Usce I can proudly say that they are improving each day and that they are very good team eager to learn and work with the customers. We are organizing seminars in sale also we are having a huge support from our partners in education .Normally since we are very young market in this field its more difficult but on the other side one more challenge for us
Do you plan to introduce new brands to your portfolio this year ?
We are starting now with IWC in Serbia , it will be in connection to our shop reopening , and yes we have plan about the new brands that we are working more than a year on but still can’t talk about.