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Posted : 2010-09-06 19:09
Updated : 2010-09-06 19:09

Can Cartier draw less wealthy shoppers?


Actress Yoon Eun-hye poses with a Marcello de Cartier saddle bag in front of Cartier Maison, the brand’s flagship store, in Cheongdam-dong, Seoul. / Courtesy of Cartier
French luxury brand wants to sell more jewellery to girls, watches to boys

By Cathy Rose A. Garcia

There is no doubt that luxury brands’ flagship stores in Cheongdam are intimidating, which is why many Koreans prefer going to the crowded but more accessible department stores.

Cartier Maison, the flagship of the luxury jeweler, is no exception, with its elegant facade and window displays filled with elegant handbags, sparkling diamond jewelry and well-crafted watches.

But Cartier Korea is trying to ease people’s conceptions that you need to be wealthy or well-dressed to experience the excellent customer service the brand is known for at its flagship store.

``It’s all about the experience. If you go to the Maison, you will be served a beverage whether you buy or not. This is the kind of service you won’t get at the department stores. But the problem is not many customers are brave enough to open the door. We are trying to encourage customers to experience the generosity and experience of the Maison... We are trying to lower the threshold and change the impression of the general public,’’ Sarah Kim, managing

‘Complication’ series watch for men
director of Cartier Korea, told The Korea Times at the brand’s posh flagship store in Cheongdam, Thursday.

Cartier has a long brand history dating back to 1847 when Louis-Francois Cartier took over a jewelry workshop in Paris. The brand has often been described as ``jeweler to kings, king of jewelers.’’

Ultimately, it is the service that sets Cartier apart from other luxury brands. ``All the luxury brands are trying to be more upscale, coming out with more extravagant products and bigger boutiques. But eventually, it is a competition of service and how to impress the customers and leave a memorable experience,’’ Kim said.

Cartier’s sales staff are well-trained to deliver a superior and touching style of service that is designed to leave a lasting impression on the customers. Many customers go to the shop to buy engagement or wedding rings or gifts fort heir loved ones for special occasions like anniversaries. But because of the hefty price tags, customers do not usually buy the Cartier Tank watch or Trinity rings immediately, but return three or four times over a few months or years before making a decision.

``Every moment, you share with the customer’s dream and encourage them to keep dreaming... That’s the power and essence of our sales staff,’’ Kim said.

While Cartier is known as a jeweler in Europe, interestingly the brand is more popular for its watches in Korea. Kim sees potential for Cartier to significantly grow its jewelry sales in Korea.

``This is an unusual case since we have a stronger image as a watchmaker than a jeweler here. This is a major challenge but also an opportunity to grow. Overseas, the product sales mix between watch and jewelry is usually 70 percent jewelry, but in Korea, watches make up almost 50 percent and jewelry is less than 40 percent. There’s a long way to go,’’ Kim said.

Another area for growth for Cartier is in the high-end and complex men’s watches, such as the Tourbillion which start at 150 million won.

``The market size of men’s watches in Korea is still small. The volume is only a third of Singapore and Taiwan, and a fraction of the Hong Kong market. There’s a lot of potential to grow in this area in Korea as well... Men are spending money on 10 million won suits and now they’re willing to spend on 100-million-won watches,’’ she said.

Kim became the first Korean female managing director to be appointed at Cartier Korea last November. She worked for the LVMH Group as brand manager for Fendi in Korea, before joining Cartier in 2006 as a retail manager and then as retail director.

``Honestly I didn’t see much difficulty or challenges (climbing the corporate ladder as a woman). I’m lucky I was at the right place at the right company with the right product. This luxury industry is perfect for women... At Cartier global level, 50 percent of sales staff is female, and even in office level, almost 50 percent are female. As a jeweler, the brand itself is shaped by women,’’ she said.

Balancing work and family can be challenging for any female worker, but even more so for a top executive like Kim. But she keeps her work at the office, while focusing solely on her family while at home.

``When I’m at work, I don’t think about my daughter. But when I go home, I don’t think of the company. The moment I step inside the house, I just see my 21-month-old daughter running to me and I don’t think of work,’’ she said, with a smile.

Asked to offer advice for young Korean women on how to advance in the workplace, Kim says: ``You have to make sure you deliver. Your work has to be outstanding, no matter what. Whether you’re male or female, you have to do your best work always.”

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