Laings: what’s next?

Brian Nelson, newly appointed retail director at Laings, discusses his leadership role and the future of the company

What is your history in the industry?

I have been in the industry for over 27 years, having held various roles across the sector and within Laings itself – from shop floor to operations management.

My career in the jewellery and watch sector started in 1995 with Ernest Jones, before moving to Mappin and Webb as an assistant manager in Edinburgh. During this time, I was able to lead the opening of the Old Course Hotel showroom in St. Andrew’s which gave me a glimpse into the luxury market. 

From there, I was able to start my journey with Laings in 2006 as an assistant manager at the old Fredrick Street location before relocating to Laings Cardiff as the general manager where I gained a wealth of customer service experience. I re-joined the Laings team in Edinburgh in 2019 from Fraser Hart Jewellers, taking over management of the watch gallery, before becoming Laings Edinburgh manager.

In October last year, I moved into a new role as head of retail where I led our team through the first stages of our multi-layer expansion project. I’ll continue to lead the next phase of development as I join the board as retail director, supporting Laings’ growth with our extensive transformation plans being rolled out.

What responsibilities will your new role at Laings include?

In the role of retail director, I’m responsible for all of the online and offline retail operations at Laings, including the day-to-day management of the showrooms located across the UK – in Glasgow, Edinburgh, Southampton and Cardiff – as well as our first mono-brand showroom with OMEGA which opened just last month in Wales. 

I will have strategic oversight of the retail side of the business, continuing to work alongside our partners and brands to redefine a luxury retail experience, ensuring there is a continued level of exceptional service while driving footfall to our locations and elevating the client experience. I’ll also be working closely with the board to help shape the success of our new Laings flagship showroom, set to open in Glasgow later this year.

What do you hope to achieve in your new role, and what is your vision for the business?

Having worked across various roles in the jewellery and watch industry, I can now offer my passion and expertise to the board to bring best practice, together with Laings’ esteemed heritage to truly exceed client expectations.

As Laings continues to progress its retail strategy, with many exciting projects in the works, it’s a fantastic opportunity for me to help lead this next phase, bringing innovation into every area of the business while driving footfall and overall performance. 

How do you plan to increase footfall and elevate client experience?

Laings offers a carefully curated selection of fine jewellery and luxury watches from some of the world’s most prestigious brands, as well as bespoke design and repair services by the in-house team of master watchmakers, goldsmiths and jewellery designers; and we pride ourselves on the exceptional service and customer experience we offer.

As we look to enhance this client journey, we’re investing in our workshops to offer our clients a more immersive experience. For the first time, we’ll be drawing back the curtain on the crafts involved, allowing our clients to join our craftspeople to see their artistry in motion as they bring bespoke designs to life and carry out skilled services. 

How does Laings plan to challenge jewellery and watchmaking retail experiences?

We’re embarking on a journey of evolution to challenge jewellery and watchmaking retail experiences by bringing innovation to every area of the business, while never forgetting the deep-rooted heritage that anchors the Laings story. We believe that providing an immersive experience is vital and that’s why we ensure our clients are taken on a journey into the world of Laings, allowing them to see the intricacies of our service first-hand. 

How do you plan to support the jewellers’ growth?

As we continue to roll out the expansion plan, I’ll be working alongside our managing director, Stuart McDowell, and sales director, Richard Laing, as well as feeding into the wider business operations.

A key focus for us is delivering an unparalleled service, and I’ll be working to ensure best practice is prevalent throughout the business. We now have a 10-strong board of directors and I believe, together, we will continue to make great strides in our ambition.

What does Laings’ £10m multi-layer expansion project entail?

We announced our ambitious multi-layer expansion plan in 2021, outlining plans to strengthen our presence across the UK. 

The first in a series of transformations was unveiled in the autumn as we tripled the size of the Laings Cardiff showroom, introducing Swiss watch brands such as Rolex and Patek Philippe to our Welsh clientele for the first time. This was followed by the launch of our first mono-brand boutique with OMEGA in Wales, and most recently, we’ve announced plans to transform a landmark five-storey building in Glasgow into our new flagship location.

But a key aim of this investment is to attract talent to the industry as we recruit across all areas of the business. 

Work is already underway to expand our aspirational workspaces for our designers, watchmakers and goldsmiths to offer opportunities in locations where there have previously been less positions available, while inspiring the next generation of talent to train in the field. 

What is the next phase of development for Laings?

We recently signed a 15-year lease to take over Rowan House, the landmark B-listed building on Glasgow’s Buchanan Street – the centrepiece of our investment project.

We plan to revitalise the 19th century retail and office development to build on the workspaces for our growing team of craftspeople and enhance the overall retail experience. We’ll be bringing Laings to the forefront while creating unique, immersive experiences for our clients, delivering a new retail format that captures the imagination of our clients and further enhances the luxury shopping experience.

What is next for Laings, and where do you see the business in three years’ time?

As a business, we want to continue to build on our legacy as a leading destination for luxury jewellery and watches by investing in our future. Our company-wide commitment is to nurture talent in the industry, ensuring traditional artisan crafts are kept alive for generations to come. With our multi-layer expansion strategy in place, we’re looking forward to showing our continued commitment to our partners and the cities we operate in.

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