Pontroue: Luxury Goods Market has Potential for Further Growth in Africa


The chief executive of Roger Dubuis, Mr. Jean-Marc Pontroue, during a working visit to Polo Luxury Stores in Lagos spoke about the importance of the market to luxury goods and how Polo Avenue has been well positioned to connect Nigerian consumers to the latest luxury brands in the world

From the feedback you have received about Nigeria, how can you describe the country’s luxury market?

Even though this is my first time in Nigeria, I have learnt so much about Nigeria and Africa in Europe through many sources, especially through reading and interacting with people. To this end, I can confidently say the continent is moving very quickly in luxury. We have seen in the last few years of growing interest with people buying luxuries. And I strongly believe that this market has potential for further growth in the future. The world is growing very fast and we have to be ready as a brand to be on the top 50 cities in the world that things would happen in the future. Would it still be Paris, New York or cities like Lagos? So our job is to screen and access the world need to see where things would happen in the future. I always look at statistics and I have been able to identify that the biggest market in the continent for luxury goods like Champagne is Nigeria. When this broken down, you will discover that where you export the high earned products which have special interest is likely to grow our own sales because those who buy the Champagne, buy our watches.

Narrowing things down to your brand, based on your interaction with Nigerians, how can you describe their feelings towards Dubuis?

I stand to be corrected if I’m wrong: we create in Switzerland the best watch. We follow the trend and we invest well in research to know what our partners and consumers want. It’s good to be alerted about what makes sense and what is new for our partners to bring into the market. Over the years, we have discovered that an average Nigerian luxury patron has penchant for uniqueness and quality and we have always strived to meet the demand. In return, our brand has become very appreciative in the market.
Having said this, we have been in different circles in the business and in all; we have always remained a strong brand. Today, we have been bought by the second largest luxury group in the world. Again, this has impacted well on the brand and shore up its profile.

How long do you stay with a partner?

Let me start by saying that it is difficult for any global brand to succeed without having partners in strategic markets. In doing so, one has to be sure that good partners are attracted. If you make the right choice, it will make your brand and if you take a wrong step, it will mar your fortune. Polo Luxury Stores, for instance, became our ideal partner because of its pedigree and ability to have built strong brands over the years. At the right time when we saw the need to explore the emerging markets, we struck a deal with Polo with hope that it would translate to a symbiotic relationship for the two partners.
Back to your question on the duration of our stay with a partner, I think as long as we are happy with the partnership, we love to stay with long lasting partners. We don’t like to break contracts. If you want to build a brand, having long lasting partner is one of the greatest assets.
Our partnership with Polo is strategic to our growth in Africa because the rise of emerging markets has been perhaps the defining feature of the global economy this century. When one now has a partner like Polo Luxury Store that has a good understanding of the market, it can be imagined what the future of such brand in the market becomes.

You have spoken glowingly about the market and your determination to remain a top player; can you please spell out the Unique Selling Point of the brand?

Each Dubuis timepiece is known for its winning mentality, allowing for the development of spectacular designs with unquestionable credibility. In further showing pride in its origin and traditions, the Dubuis timepiece is known for its signature – the Geneva Seal, a reinforcement of the authenticity, quality and credibility of the global brand.
When you have the Poincon de Genève for every watch, then combined with our innovative and expressive designs, it is guaranteed to work for us and thus exceeding the expectations of our esteemed customers.
To meet up with our customer demands, about four years ago, the brand delved into the creation of unique timepieces for the elegant and discerning woman. Channeling its strong, expressiveness, dedicated to high-end watches for men, the brand effortlessly translated its appeal to the luxury market for women. The ladies timepiece range continues to gain high momentum in demand across the globe with each piece almost automatically becoming a best seller overnight.

Are you looking at Polo to explore other African countries?

I believe it’s challenging to make overnight success in an unfamiliar terrain. You need to have the connections to high earned customers, and suppliers from Europe, which I know Polo has. So I believe myself in reaching the market with the portfolio of brands that we have here in Nigeria than going everywhere.
Polo Luxury Group remains the largest retailer of the Roger Dubuis timepieces in West Africa and one of the brand’s foremost dealers on the continent, guaranteeing an exclusive collection of 100 per cent authentic Geneva seal certified timepieces. In the last eight years, we have been able to see the viable connections of the Polo Luxury Group in western Africa and across the continent. Particularly, in rapidly expanding the growing number of its valuable customer base across the vibrant continent. With a partner like this, I don’t think we need anything more to succeed in the continent.

In what way has social media impacted or affected your brand acceptability?

Acceptance is very important. To be known, make buzz and friends. Our brand is good at that in creating small movies; we have high number of people coming on our site, facebook and instagram. But you have to have a direct relationship with your high earned customers and give them trust to buy your product, not the other one. We are in the emotional business, the love business. Many of our watches today are bought for pleasure. We are in the relationship business and that is the beauty of business today that beyond business, we have feelings and you can’t do that on telephone or television.

Can you please touch on your communication strategies and how they have contributed to the growth of the brand?

Our communications strategy is not so much on the media side. We believe about the digital because all that we do on our brand: the short movies and shows are in the spectacular. So digital for us is a very good platform to display the brand exuberance and creativity. That’s why we invest a lot in the research department.

The global economy is currently weak; don’t you think this would affect sales?

We are in recession and the big consumers have one issue or the other. So it does affect the ability and the readiness of such consumers to spend. It doesn’t mean that they don’t have the money, but do they have the confidence? Are they free of the searchlight of the agencies? Maybe not. Therefore it impacts the confidence. It’s about joy, happiness and celebration that makes you just want to go out there and spend money to express your emotions. And if things are a bit slow, it affects the consumer psychology and readiness or willingness to spend. But the rich will always be very rich. At the end of the day, fresh money would be made. The new challenges bring new opportunities. So it works like this but it’s inter-connected.

So far, how can you describe your partnership with Polo?

Fabulous! It’s not only about money or business; it’s also about friendship, connection and emotional feelings. Our relationship with Polo has created a special bond between Geneva and Nigeria and it has brought our family close. On number of time, Mr. John Obayuwana had had fabulous dinner with collectors in Geneva where we discussed businesses and what was trending. So, it gives joy and at the end makes the business happen.