In the extremely competitive world of high-end luxury retail, there is one golden rule: Location. Location. Location! Yet, with their unexpected move from London’s most famous luxury retail thoroughfare Bond Street around the corner to a six storey townhouse on Brook Street, Frost of London has thrown the rule book out the window. The gamble is in giving up an A1 location (albeit at the less prestigious northern end of the street) for an additional 50% of retail space that the new property provides. Tom Mulraney sat down with Frost of London co-founder, Dino D’Auria, to get the inside story on what led to the move, the challenges currently facing the market, and what we can expect next from this iconic London retailer.
WatchPro: What led to your decision to relocate away from Bond Street and what are some of the advantages in your opinion?
Dino D’Auria: A key reason for the move is that there is more space. We had 45 brands at one stage. We went down to 35, and now we’ve got 23. This was very intentional on our part as we want to concentrate on the brands we love and give them the attention and exposure they deserve.
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Some of the brands we stock really need to be explained to the customer so that they can appreciate the value. It is important then for those brands to have the right retail partners who are going to give them the time and attention they deserve.
I think by decreasing the number of brands, and oving to a property with six floors, it allows us to create a better experience for our remaining brands and for the customers. We’ve also got a boardroom now that we can use for staff training and that our clients can use for meetings, as well as a rooftop terrace that will allow us to host really cool events for our special clients.
There are also other advantages to this new location. It’s opposite Hush (an iconic dining destination in London), which is very busy with lots of business meetings, etc. leading to more visibility of the shop throughout the day.
Brook Street itself plays a big role too. All the cars that go past us have to turn right onto Bond Street and they get stopped in traffic right outside our shop all the time.
They would have not seen our shop before at our previous location on Bond Street. I cannot explain how much better it is. Drivers stop here all the time to drop off or pick up their clients and the first thing they see is Frost. It takes one out of hundred to walk in. Likewise, people coming from Claridges have to walk past the shop. As do people cutting through from Selfridges to Bond Street.
And, most importantly for us, it’s been like moving from a flat to a house. It already feels like home after two to three weeks. We’ve got a bigger and better team now and we’re ready to take it up another level.
Frost of London’s new home around the corner from Bond Street, London, on Brook Street.
WatchPro: What do customers think of your new home?
Dino D’Auria: The response has been massive. Very, very good. I’ve even asked my clients what’s worse about this shop compared to the old shop? And they say nothing. The only thing I can think of is maybe the address, Brook Street as opposed to Bond Street, but we’ve been here 10 years and we’ve got our client base. Plus, if someone is stood outside our old location and calls me asking where we’ve gone, I just tell them wait there two minutes and then I run around the corner and get them. It’s that close. It’s just one block we’re talking, we’re literally touching our old building.
A full floor at the new Frost of London has been devoted to Franck Muller watches.
WatchPro: Moving away from the new location for a minute, what’s the current retail environment look like for Frost, and indeed for the wider market?
Dino D’Auria: The market is tough. Ask whoever you like. And anyone who says it’s not tough is lying. Even for me, if I say it’s not tough, it’s because I’ve worked my client base well and I’ve got a few bigger sales. But even for that, you have to work double. It’s a lot harder to achieve half of what you could have five years ago.
WatchPro: What’s driving these challenging conditions, in your opinion? Is it just the knock-on effect of uncertainty around Brexit or are there other forces at play?
Dino D’Auria: I think it’s the amalgamation of a lot of things. In recent years, bigger brands, like Richard Mille and Audemars Piguet have shifted their focus to opening mono brand boutiques and only working with a few select retail partners in key locations. This has had a knock-on effect as other brands look to follow suit.
For example, Cartier lets it watches be stocked widely at a number of retail partners, but not its jewellery. All of a sudden, the Cartier bangle holds value and that’s where they make their money. The watches are available widely, but the jewellery is not, so it creates a demand for it….