Xavier Gauderlot is the Boss. President of Hugo Boss.

Posted on October 17, 2010

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People tend to have the impression that behemoths and brand goliaths will never fail or falter. This perception couldn’t be further away from the truth. A little over five years ago, Hugo Boss Watches was staring into an abyss of mismanagement and unfocused positioning following the bankruptcy of their distributor, Tempus, in December 2004. It was then that Movado Group Incorporated took over the licensing rights under the leadership of Mr Xavier Gauderlot. They haven’t looked back since.

It’s almost unfathomable that a name like Hugo Boss could suffer from low awareness. While their apparel collection had no issues, their timepiece range somehow floundered. With Xavier serving as President of Hugo Boss Watches, everything was restarted from the ground up. Today, Hugo Boss Watches ranks among the top five fashion brands in the world with over 5000 points of sale globally. It’s a real achievement as they’ve never parlayed “Swiss Made” into their brand message even though that moniker is a staple of product positioning for watches.

Xavier Gauderlot doesn't believe in getting his consumers to pay a premium for a classic watch after buying a $1000 suit

“In the fashion category, price points are very important. You don’t need the ‘Swiss Made’ label. Being competitive means that you cannot be priced above US$600 and in that price category, people don’t really care. In reality, the brands that created the business of ‘Swiss Made’ have lost a lot of market share and appeal,”

According to Xavier, Hugo Boss Watches never stopped growing even during the height of the financial crisis and actually captured more market share due to the crash. “The fashion segment has benefited as a whole. People still want to indulge themselves with stylish and sophisticated timepieces. 2010 is a good year but to be honest we have no clue about 2011. Today, anyone who claims they know better than 6 months ahead is a liar.”

The truth is Xavier has his work cut out for him. Currently, even with China’s rapid rise, he considers the United Kingdom their most important market for now — an artefact of historical inertia. When questioned, he clarifies, “Consumers are growing globally. In China, you’ll see more designs than in the UK — 80 different models versus a maximum of 40 in Europe. The challenge as a global brand is to maintain clear positioning yet cater to different needs.”

Clearly, Xavier has his finger on the pulse, “We’re in the top five currently and with the launch of Hugo Boss Orange, we’ll reach a younger audience with different retail points and a whole new brand position. We aim to be in the top three in five years.”

His Typical Workday
Always start the day with exercise. If I don’t exercise, I don’t really function. Three to four coffees daily helps also.

Management Style
Everyone has a good opinion. I encourage everyone to speak up. Don’t play mind games. It’s better to say something stupid than do something stupid.

On Stress
I believe in positive stress. Putting pressure on people doesn’t mean they have to be afraid of you.

On Defined Working Hours
The hours of a day don’t make sense to me. The task is more important than anything else. I don’t mind how people do things as long as it gets done.

On Work-Life Balance
It took me 10 years to learn but I’ve learned to say no. It’s crazy when one becomes out of touch with what’s going on among friends and family.

The Boss’s Parting Words
Stay true to yourself but be prepared to change. Enjoy every moment because you’ll never know what each brings and live without regret — there’s always something new on the horizon.

This interview first appeared in the September issue of August Man. Jonathan Ho writes for Augustman.com. August Man and Augustman.com is property of CR Media Pte Ltd. You can visit http://www.augustman.com for stylish men’s fashion, luxury brand and high end watch reviews, travel stories, social commentary, trendspotting and motoring.
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