Brand ProfilesFeatures

The Second-Hand Uprising

“It was a simply equity purchase,” says Amsdon, “none of that ‘preferred shares’ type of deal or any of that kind of thing.” At this point in the interview it is still not entirely clear what the investment is for: with a healthy, growing business that plays with figures like Watchfinder’s and is evidently growing steadily, surely bridging loans or an ongoing finance facility from a bank are more the order of the day? “Every retailer is trying to get into the second-hand market now, so we needed to establish dominance. We’re the gorilla in the room now. In the old days, you would never see pre-owned watches, but the bigger players such as Aurum have been watching us closely.”

Aurum is patently attempting to park its tanks on Watchfinder’s lawn. Back in August it was announced that the luxury jeweller, which owns Mappin & Webb and Goldsmiths, had acquired 100% share capital of the Watch Shop from its father-and-son owners, and weeks later revealed a new click-and-collect service, which would naturally require a slick, easy-to-use website with product libraries and fluid searchability. To collect data from a platform like this is to conjure power in the market. And it is not Aurum’s first foray in the online selling of watches, having launched an e-commerce platform for its Watches of Switzerland brand back in 2011.

It is that data, says Amsdon, that is so key to Watchfinder’s success. “We’ve sold £130m worth of watches so we have a lot of data on the models. We have an app in development which will use face recognition technology to allow users to take a photo of their watch, upload it to our system, which will recognise the exact model, and provide a quote there and then.” One senses that this will provide a rather serious barrier to entry for pretenders to the Watchfinder throne.

“Every retailer is trying to get into the second-hand market now, so we needed to establish dominance. We’re the gorilla in the room now.”

So what’s next? Amsdon is 41 and has a family (including two young daughters) – is he thinking of exiting the business for a handsome sum and retiring? “At the moment our turnover is about £40m. We want to double it and possibly get into the USA or the Far East.” Even if he is thinking of selling his chunk at some point in the future, the simple fact of this ambitious strategy means that it is probably some years way. As Amsdon puts it: “The need for part exchange is everywhere, and there is a lot of room for us to expand.”

Speaking to Amsdon is to encounter a driven company with big plans and – thanks to that investment round – the money to make them happen. He points specifically to the service centre and the warranty offering as being particularly expensive offerings to emulate – it would take significant upfront investment to simply open a service centre with a coterie of experienced watchmakers and engineers, and given Watchfinder’s pre-eminence in the space, it is hard to imagine anyone with their hand on the purse strings thinking it is a good idea to sink so much money into an operation which may fail against Watchfinder’s hard-won reputation.

Anyone else looking to get serious about the pre-owned space has got some catching up to do.

Previous page 1 2 3
Back to top button