ITP WATCHPRO HOT 100

It will be little surprise to many of you to discover Michael Laing here. After all, he is no stranger to excellence.

The man, who has an OBE for his services to hallmarking, has been at Laing since 1971, and all the while has striven to make it a haven for best of breed timepieces and jewellery. The same is true at Parkhouse, the 18th century business he later acquired.

The Laing store is in Edinburgh, while Parkhouse is in Southampton and Cardiff, but Michael’s strategy for each is the same. “We seek to be the specialist leading brand supplier in each of our three cities and therefore we need to be memorable and present each brand in a manner that is true to their DNA.”

And in those terms, he has been active this year, delivering serious doses of retail theatre with, for example, floor-to-ceiling displays in Cardiff and a Formula One car on the roof at the Edinburgh store.

It all supports a line up of horology’s sexiest brands that includes Rolex, Cartier, Audemars Piguet and many more – and it has been a winning recipe. “We are delighted that the strategy has exceeded our expectations and we delivered our most successful year ever last year.”

That said, it has not been plain sailing. Michael says that while it has been a rewarding year, it has also been one of some upheaval in the business. “It has been a year of great change in supplier relationships, customer relationships and finding new routes to market. The growing engagement with the digital world has certainly made the year more challenging. I see this as on-going but the last year has been worth the effort as we have been repositioning our business and enjoying strong sales growth across all our cities.”

That process of repositioning is just about to go up a gear to a full scale rebrand due to be launched later this year.

“The most challenging aspect is retaining your own identity as a strong local brand in balance with the in-store [branded areas] of the world’s most desirable watch brands, all with very different visual identities.”

As well as using new technologies to make marketing more personal, Michael launched his first transactional website last year and is now taking that through the rebranding process “to ensure all our customer touch points are complementary to our brand and a luxury retail experience”. And no doubt they will be excellent ones too.