Ian Reisner - Interview on CNN


Ian Reisner may be a banker, but retail is his first love and it was a chance meeting at a
cocktail party that helped him transform this passion into (21:38:10) a
business. Now over drinks Reisner met Matti Weiderpass (ph) whose idea
for a retail watch store would soon become Reisner`s new investment. In
1994 the two founded Watch World International. Today the company has
about 500 employees, 102 locations and 1999 revenues are (21:38:20)
expected to be close to $50 million.

Joining me the vice president and co-founder of Watch World
International, Ian Reisner. Thanks very much for joining us.


PILGRIM: This is not quite an overnight success story, but almost isn`t

REISNER: Yes. It has (21:38:30) been quite exciting. We started
thinking we`d just open one store and make it fun to shop for fashion
sport watches and we opened one store in Soho right (21:38:40) here in
the city and used to come and join Mattie in the evenings to help sell
watches. I was a banker by day and a watch sales man (21:38:50) by
night and five years later we have 102 stores coast to coast and we`re
the leader purveyor of fashion sports watches.

PILGRIM: Did you ever think you would be (21:39:00) this big?

REISNER: My partner loved selling watches and love the idea of
developing the business and I loved the idea of growing the business.
So, I actually did and I think he`s truly (21:39:10) shocked that we`ve
grown this quickly.

PILGRIM: So, you must have had a moment where you thought there are
plenty of watch stores out there. What will make ours different and
(21:39:20) yours are significantly different aren`t they?

REISNER: Well, we thought that the way that people sold watches in the
past was kind of boring. You`d have to stand in front of (21:39:30) a
counter and someone would try to help you from behind the counter and
you could barely see the watches in the distance. So, we designed a
museum (21:39:40) like store where customers could go right up to the
wall and see the fun watches. You`re within six inches and designing a
different fun environment was our (21:39:50) goal and it really has

PILGRIM: For someone as tall as myself it seems like the ideal design
for a store because the case are eye level. Do you think (21:40:00)
that really helps you to sell watches better?

REISNER: I think it does. People come to our stores not expecting to
buy a watch. It`s an impulse purchase. So, if we can get them close
(21:40:10) to the product and they see something that they like, then
they ask the sales person to see it and we`ve got a 50/50 chance of then
selling (21:40:20) them a watch for under $100.

PILGRIM: Ian what really struck me about your operation is that service

is so important to getting repeat business and you seem to (21:40:30)
understand that right from the start.

REISNER: Yes. Mattie knows from working in Switzerland for over 10
years that watch service is as important as selling a watch. Bans,
batteries and repairs are critical (21:40:40) to make the watch
consumer happy and we perform those services for our customers and when
they`re in the watch buying mode for themselves or for (21:40:50)
presents they come back to Watch World.

PILGRIM: And you tell them that it`s - the adjustments are free.

REISNER: Absolutely. Any adjustment on a watch we sell is free. We
honor the warranties at our stores. We extend (21:41:00) the warranties
and we have rather fair prices for bands and batteries.

PILGRIM: How many people really come back or is that just a selling

REISNER: It`s actually bigger than we (21:41:10) actually thought it
would be. In our Soho store we have customers that show up at least
once a month whether it`s just browsing on a Sunday afternoon or back
(21:41:20) to fix a watch or another watch or a friend`s watch. It
really is surprising in all of our stores around the country people
really do come back. Watches are (21:41:30) a big part of peoples

PILGRIM: What about your competition?

REISNER: Well, our competition is not many competitors out there. Watch

Station a subsidiary of Sun Glass Hut is trying to duplicate our
success, but we seem to (21:41:40) consistently be one step ahead of
them. And the department stores have realized that they really need to
focus on their watch niche otherwise it`s going to be (21:41:50) lost
to the specialty retailers. So, they`ve beefed up their departments and
improved their product mix, but we still think we have an edge of
getting the best product (21:42:00) first and offering it at a real
attractive environment at really good prices.

PILGRIM: You were approached by the competition to actually sell to
them. Why didn`t you go with that?

REISNER: Well, as (21:42:10) an entrepreneur we saw the vision of
growing something ourselves. Selling our baby to a big company didn`t
seem to be what we viewed as fun.

PILGIRM: Still a lot of (21:42:20) young guys are taking that buy out
and skiing for the rest of their lives these days.

REISNER: Well, that`s not in my life. I like to work two jobs and
(21:42:30) having only one is scary.

PILGRIM: Let`s talk about that for a second. It does intrigue me that
you didn`t quit your day job. They always say don`t quit your day job.
You took that (21:42:40) advice seriously. Did that work?

REISNER: It did work. Being connected with Wall Street, I think is a
critical part of our success. I know where to go for venture capital so
that we could grow this company (21:42:50) this quickly. We opened
about 40 stores a year. So, I was able to sell watches and give ideas on
how to grow the business but yet find the capital and find (21:43:00)
the capital quickly from the right kind of strategic investors and I
think it has been good that I kept the day job.

PILGRIM: Going public? .

REISNER: Going public is something we thought and (21:43:10) sometimes

next year we might take the company public. We`ll have 125 stores by
the beginning of next year and we`re focusing on our Web site
watchworld.com. So, it`s something we`re thinking (21:43:20) about.

PILGRIM: How many watches do you have?

REISNER: I`m only wearing four today. One on each wrist and some cuff
links, but I have about 35 watches.

PILGRIM: OK. I suspected that. Thanks very much for coming on the

REISNER: Thank you.

PILGRIM: Ian Reisner, vice president and (21:43:30) co-founder of
Watch World International.





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