Irwan Danny Mussry, President and CEO of TIME International, shares his insight into navigating today’s turbulent world of luxury retail.
The watch industry was relatively quick to adapt to the fallout of the pandemic, with brands and groups embracing online platforms and various other means to introduce and showcase their latest novelties. But what about the retail side of things? To answer that question, we reached out to Irwan Danny Mussry, President and CEO of Time International, a “brand builder and retailer organization” whose vast portfolio of brands operates in Indonesia includes Cartier, TAG Heuer, Breitling along with plenty of other names from the realm of fashion. It goes without saying his insight into luxury retail in Indonesia—especially in these trying times—makes for an intriguing read.
DAMAN: Hi Pak Irwan, thank you for making the time for us. How are you doing these days?
Irwan Danny Mussry: It’s a pleasure! I’ve been well, thank you for asking. Times have definitely been challenging and interesting, so I have had to adapt to many new habits and protocols, trying to keep mind, body and soul healthy.
DA: This might sound like a clichéd question at this point, but how is Time International as a whole doing in these tough times?
IDM: Well, we are trying to navigate these challenging times as best as we can. Just like any other business, we learn to adapt with this new situation and take extra measures in making sure that all the health protocols are applied in our stores and the office at all times.
DA: What has been your main strategy in dealing with the impact of this pandemic we’re in? Especially in terms of how your business ventures have adapted.
IDM: Instead of a strategy, I would call it a mindset. What we’ve adopted is a “we’re all in this together” mindset, which is in line with our company’s motto: One Time International. With this kind of mindset, the actions we take, the decisions we make, all revolve around making things work for the better of the company for our mutual benefit and with this attitude, we became one solid, creative team, navigating the storm together.
DA: What would you say were the biggest challenges faced by Time International when the pandemic first hit? And conversely, what were some of the biggest opportunities to grow that you observed?
IDM: The two biggest challenges for me were the closure of our physical stores and ensuring the safety of our team members. As a team, the members of the HOD (Heads of Department) and I were in constant communication to make sure we could manage the situation well. We discussed all the options we had, brainstormed ideas, crafted new protocols and on the business front, our #shopfromhome campaign came to life—which has been our way to still provide our customers with what they need even when they’re at home, without the hassle of browsing a website or creating a new account.
DA: In general, how has communication between your teams and your clients changed since large- scale social restrictions (PSBB) were enacted by the government?
IDM: For all of us here at Time International, communication is key. Not just within the team, but also with our customers. And maintaining a constant line of communication with our customers is an integral part of our relationship with them. It was very important to us to ensure that through all our communication material and interactions with our customers, our priority was their safety, health and servicing them during this difficult time. It was important to us that our customers understood we were there for them. We had no “sales” agenda during that time at all and posted mainly encouraging messages of unity and to do our part in flattening the curve, because that was what mattered to us most. But if they did need us for their retail needs, we were ready and able to provide them with a safe and convenient way to shop from the comfort of their homes.
Instead of a strategy, I would call it a mindset. What we’ve adopted is a “we’re all in this together” mindset, which is in line with our company’s motto: One Time International.
DA: How big of an impact has e-commerce been to Time International’s business ventures lately? And more importantly, how will it continue to evolve in the near future?
IDM: The e-commerce part of our business did flourish during the last year or so. Our Urban Icon online store saw significant increases in traffic, sales, average basket, and our data shows that we were able to reach different clientele compared to before. More than ever now, e-commerce is the most effective way to reach customers—if you do it right—but the experience needs to be seamless. We also believe it’s important to make sure that it ties back to brick and mortar stores too because, at end of the day, the human touch is still a very important factor in our business.
DA: We understand that the future is pretty much impossible to accurately predict, especially right now when things ar so volatile and hectic. But we would love to hear what you and Time International are expecting to happen in the near future. Do you see any major shifts in customer behavior, shopping habits and so forth in the coming months?
IDM: The future is anyone’s guess at this point. I think what’s important is to be flexible and quickly adapt to change, because the only thing we know is constant both now and in the future is change. And this applies to customer behavior too. Their habits, their interests, their preferences and priorities and we need to be able to adjust accordingly.
DA: Speaking of trends, we’ve heard a lot about the rise of “revenge shopping,” especially whenever restrictions are eased and people are finally able to visit malls and stores again, but even before as well. What are your thoughts on this phenomenon?
IDM: I think it’s natural for people to have pent up demand while on lockdown, and literally every market that has experienced lockdowns had some sort of “revenge shopping,” be it for luxury products or just your average everyday items. We, too, experienced a similar kind of rush when our stores reopened, but obviously the level is very different from what you’d see elsewhere, like in China for example.
DA: Furthermore, have you noticed any significant differences in shopping behavior between customers in Jakarta and in other cities such as Bandung, Surabaya or Medan?
IDM: Customer behavior varies in general so it’s always interesting to see and learn what they like and what spikes their interest. Some markets are a bit more promotional driven, some enjoy events and gatherings more than others, some are quite conservative in taste and product preferences, while some are savvier and fashion-forward. This is exactly why we spend so much time and effort in consumer analytics, so that we can understand their needs and preferences.
DA: Do you also think that the pandemic will force the retail industry at large—particularly luxury retail—to change?
IDM: Well, I think brick and mortar is a part of the business that will remain constant, because at the end of the day, for luxury, touch and feel is an integral part of it. What will change, I believe, is the customer experience, as brands will continue to use technological advancements to incorporate more and more digital aspects. The experiences will become more modernized, more entertaining from a technology standpoint, and more seamless from online to offline and vice versa.
DA: The relaunch of the Cartier boutique at Plaza Indonesia was a most welcome development in Jakarta’s retail landscape. Can you share with us what it was like to open a major retail venue amid all of the restrictions that we’re facing? What kind of unique challenges did you and your team face, and what are some of the biggest takeaways from the experience?
IDM: Renovating a boutique that size in the midst of a pandemic was definitely a challenge. From the safety and health protocols we needed to put in place, to managing the logistic delays, not to mention being restricted to even going on-site to check on the progress. We were already roughly 60-percent completed by the time PSBB began and I really thank the team who really worked hard to put everything together despite so many obstacles.
DA: Last but not least, it was almost a year ago that you celebrated The Time Place’s 20th anniversary. What would you consider to be your biggest milestone for 2020?
IDM: Yes, how time flies! It’s hard to believe that was actually one year ago. To me, this year has really been about rediscovering our bond as a team in the company. Through the challenges we have faced this year, we have become more united, more qualitative and more openly communicating. It has really felt like an advanced level in everything we do. It has really been a wonderful experience to have such a huge feeling of camaraderie that has been brought together under the most unpleasant circumstances, so it’s definitely right when people say there’s always a silver lining.
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