The Chemnitz jeweler Roller has organized its two branches using two different strategies.
Roller’s two jewelry stores are located right in the middle of the Chemnitz city center, between picturesque historical buildings and modern shopping arcades: the “Galerie” at Neumarkt and, only a few minutes’ walk away, the “Atelier” in Innere Klosterstraße, where the MeisterSinger collection is on display. Although the family business was founded in 1886, it has changed location a number of times since then.
Bombed out in the Second World War, Roller managed to outlast the GDR in an old kiosk at the main railway station – and in an unusual situation: “There was no shortage of customers, the little shop was always packed, but it was very difficult to find any goods to sell,” recalls Carsten Schmidt-Kippig, who belongs to the fifth generation of the Roller family and knows the years spent under the socialist planned economy from the stories his parents told.
After the fall of Communism, the company moved to more suitable premises at Theaterplatz, which was an excellent address, but like the second branch, which was re-established soon afterwards in the historic location of the 70s and 80s in Bahnhofstrasse, too far away from the inner city center, which was only formed later. In the year 2000, Roller again relocated to the “Galerie Roter Turm” at Neumarkt. In 2003, the “Atelier” became established as the current headquarters. “The people of Chemnitz have followed this development and noticed that Roller has reinvented itself,” says Schmidt-Kippig.
There is a good reason why the two shops have different logos. The lively Neumarkt is a place to find more commercial goods, whereas exclusive jewelry and very high-quality watches are on offer at the quieter opposite side of the market in the “Atelier”. Its two floors are bright and the furnishings are modern, with plenty of white, and colorful upholstered furniture to sit and talk to customers – an interesting contrast to the view of St. Jacob’s Church and the Old Town Hall directly opposite. The Roller goldsmiths’ open workshop is also located on the first floor. The company not only provides an all-round service for watches and jewelry, it can also produce its own creations, which are developed together with customers, many of whom have moved to the area relatively recently, Schmidt-Kippig has noticed. “Chemnitz is not a traditional cultural stronghold, it is not Dresden,” he admits. But that also has its advantages: “Unlike Dresden, in Chemnitz, you can really develop your own taste.” His customers’ taste is therefore not old-fashioned baroque, but rather more modern. “Here, white gold is more popular than yellow gold,” he says, summing up the customers’ tendency to discreetness. However, this restraint does not apply when it comes to buying watches and jewelry: “We no longer sell mainly in the pre-Christmas period, but rather throughout the year, without any particular external reason: ‘I’ll just go ahead and buy that now!’ or ‘Let’s treat ourselves to it now!’, people say.”
As Schmidt-Kippig always kept a close eye on his clientele and their interests, the company already ran an extensive website at quite an early stage. Having joined his parents’ business in 1992, he has always been responsible for digitalization. “We’ve been selling online since 1996, only it wasn’t called an online store back then. And a great many customers have always ordered by mail and either had the goods sent to them or they picked them up at our store.” The fact that Roller also added high-quality smartwatches to its range back then fits in perfectly with this early distribution channel. “A typical fast-paced online business, which runs really well for the first few weeks after the launching of a new model and then soon subsides again. These buyers also like to pick up their watches from the shop, but I don’t often need to advise them, they know exactly what they want.”
Encounters with MeisterSinger customers, however, are a completely different story. At Roller, they are more likely to be over 40 years old and willing to philosophize about watches, about time, industrialization, and minutes that hurry by. “Conversations in which you learn something both from and about the customer,” says Schmidt-Kippig. However, he does not in the least see MeisterSinger as limited to the single-hand principle and the concept of slowing down. In fact, he hopes that the brand will win even more design awards – each of which Roller immediately praises on its website. It wouldn’t hurt MeisterSinger to be a little louder, more viral, and tell even more stories.
Roller is not only highly active on its extensive website, it also invites its customers to cultural events or visits watch manufacturers in nearby Glashütte together with them. Roller also makes successful use of conventional media, bringing out a comprehensive, elaborately produced house catalog once a year. For Carsten Schmidt-Kippig, the fact that the Baselworld as an institution has been considerably weakened by the withdrawal of the Swatch Group is “a catastrophe. I need to know what is happening in the industry. And after the trade show, good customers call me and urgently want to know what I have seen and bought”.
With so much commitment from his customers, he isn’t worried about the next generation. “The children come into the shop with their families, who introduce them to the world of watches. And I don’t see the much-debated loss of interest in the least.” But of course they don’t stop at Roller for very long and are soon on the move on again. This time, however, only a few meters further down the road, into the neighboring shop, as the “Atelier” has a spacious 400 square meters of retail space to try out new ideas.
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