Laidlaw founded Jura Watches some six months ago. In that time, he has shown more spark and innovation than his rivals have managed in decades.
“I come from outside the industry,” he explains. “If you come from within a sector, you might have knowledge and experience, but your views and opinions are formed over many years. What you might think is a radical change, from an external point of view, is in fact relatively minor.
“I started with a clean sheet of paper. I could look at the business, free from the preconceptions of how traditional retailers do things.”
Jura Watches sells Swiss-made luxury watches. But unlike rival firms, Laidlaw has totally shaken up the way these items are sold. The Jura store has been designed to “delight and amuse” its customers. From the giant 103” plasma screen, which covers a whole wall, to the ice sculpture of a mountain landscape opposite, it’s an entirely different shopping experience.
“The Jura region is this beautiful, tranquil, peaceful, mountainous area,” says Laidlaw. “It lies between Basel and Geneva, where 99 per cent of the world’s finest watches are made. The ambience of the store transports our customers there.”
Besides the ice mountains, Laidlaw reinforces the “Swiss-ness” of the shop by pumping a “mountain air” smell throughout the store. “It’s very subtle,” he says. “You’re not knocked out by alpine freshness.”
No other watch retailer even comes close to this kind of attention to detail. “We’re not Watches of Switzerland, mark two,” says Laidlaw, who spent £350,000 kitting out the store. “Traditional retailers that just show watches in cabinetry cannot communicate the brand values and the heritage of these watch manufacturers.”
It’s not all about flashy gimmicks, though. Jura also treats its customers like gold. Not surprising, given that their average spend is around £2,000.
“Every one of our customers gets a free membership to Jura concierge,” says Laidlaw. “The service is operated by Ten Lifestyle Management, with a value of £1,800. Even if you buy a watch for £500, we will give you unlimited access to the service – find tickets to a sold-out concert, charter a private jet, find a plumber in Hackney – that’s what the service allows you to do.”
Added plus points of shopping with the Mayfair-based firm include: one year’s free insurance on all watches; free watch-strap resizing; free same-day delivery within the M25 (“If a city trader buys a watch online in the morning, he can be wearing it by lunchtime") and free gift-wrapping.
“That’s what makes us unique,” says Laidlaw. “We provide a whole host of services and extras that people will never be offered by traditional retailers; they haven’t changed for decades.”