Xupes is a family-owned brand specialising in pre-owned luxury watches, handbags and antiques. Offering timepieces such as rare Rolex models, and classic Chanel and Hermès handbags, Xupes has quickly become one of the UK’s most prestigious retailers of authentic pre-owned items. Here we speak to co-founder Joseph McKenzie about the history behind Xupes, how it expanded from luxury watches to fashion and design, and what’s next for the brand
What is Xupes and how did you come up with the name?
Xupes was founded by myself and my father Frank in 2009. We wanted a name that was short, simple and easy to remember. We also wanted a name that had no particular meaning as we didn’t want to pigeonhole ourselves into a particular category.
Our family-run business has grown to become the home of pre-owned luxury in the UK. We offer a vast selection of watches, jewellery and handbags alongside a unique collection of art and design. We are just a short journey from London, in idyllic Hertfordshire countryside near Bishop’s Stortford, with our headquarters in a beautiful 17th-century barn.
We believe in making the aspirational accessible and we strive to continue the story of every item we sell. We ensure that every item we select can be enjoyed with the same warranties and assurances as on the day it was originally sold, and at the same time be an investment for the future. We offer a carefully curated assortment of items, from well-known labels such as Rolex, Cartier and Chanel to more niche brands such Vacheron Constantin and De Grisogono.
You sell pre-owned watches, jewellery, handbags and antiques. How do you manage them together?
When we founded the business the market for second-hand items encompassed lots of small businesses focusing on individual sectors, which we uniquely now combine. We often found that while a client might enjoy luxury watches, their partner would have a collection of handbags or jewellery. Recognising and identifying the opportunity to cater to every expectation was important in developing the business. It’s also been important to focus on mainly branded items and this is where we have found success in cross-selling. The separate departments function independently within the business most of the time, but we have developed excellent systems which help keep them integrated under the Xupes brand.
You offer more than 50 luxury watch brands, with a large selection of Rolex watches; how did you gain expertise in this field?
I believe if you have a passion for something it’s easy to learn. Following in my great grandfather’s footsteps as a clockmaker, I am very interested in horology. I am constantly reading about watch movements ‒ there is something new to learn every day. One of my core strategies was to surround myself with like-minded individuals with talent and expertise, including those with experience in working for the brands we now offer. We have also developed an in-house accredited watch service centre to bring even more expertise to our ever-growing business. Our watchmakers have similarly undergone extensive training by the brands themselves to become Cartier and Omega accredited. It’s this specialism that gives us an edge; we deliver a service that is aligned with the brands themselves. It is not what most people might expect when purchasing pre-owned items.
Ladies’ watches are fast becoming more popular at the prime horology shows SIHH and Baselworld. How do you keep up with customer demand?
Our supply chain is global so there is plenty of stock to choose from. The pre-owned luxury industry, although difficult to value, was worth around £7bn in 2016 and shows no signs of slowing. Maintaining this strong supply chain and keeping the stock procurement process as large as possible allows us to tap into market trends which differ all over the world. Women’s watches are a really interesting area of the business and we are constantly evolving our purchasing strategy in line with the brands in the first-hand market. We have seen a shift in the purchasing habits and demographic of our clients; we now have a handful of top female clients who collect watches, which when we started the business was extremely rare. Women are increasingly interested in movements and the technical capabilities of their timepieces. Quartz, jewellery-type watches will always remain popular, but now there is far more choice, even in the pre-owned market.
What is the Wonder Room?
In addition to our online shopping experience, we welcome visitors to our Hertfordshire show space, the Wonder Room. Here clients can view items in a relaxed atmosphere while enjoying a cup of coffee or a glass of champagne ‒ they inspect our range of pre-owned products and receive expert advice from a member of our team.
Describe the art and design side of Xupes.
Our art and design department is currently undergoing a transformation from its previous identity as the antiques and art department. This was broadly based and heavily reliant on the experience of my father Frank. We are now working with some of the world’s leading experts to develop new collections focused on different interior styles that link into our clients’ tastes and homes. We include works of art from renowned artists such as Picasso, one-off ceramics by Lucie Rie, striking pieces of colourful Murano glass and some of the finest Persian rugs available.
You offer a large selection of pre-owned Chanel handbags, how did this come about?
Our handbag department was established in April 2015. One of our assistant photographers at the time, Reece Morgan, showed a real passion and interest in fashion and accessories, and with the business growing rapidly we saw an opportunity in this market. With a small budget we initially tested a few items, again with our focus on quality, and ever since the department has flourished. We now hold the largest quantity of pre-loved handbags in the UK, with brands such as Chanel, Hermès and Louis Vuitton. Reece has been integral to this process and now manages a team of three handbag enthusiasts.
How do you assure customers that the products they’re buying are authentic?
This comes back to the expertise we have developed in-house ‒ alongside the systems we employ to authenticate and assure provenance. We realise this is one of the major concerns for clients buying pre-owned items. We believe trust is earned, not given. We take great pride in what we do, reflected through our excellent customer reviews and 9.9/10 rating. The importance of transparency and integrity is ingrained in our ideology and I often tell our staff to try to think as our clients would. From the initial stages of authentication, through to refurbishment and quality control, each item is rigorously tested and only the very best make it into our collection. The vetting processes we have developed have ensured that we have a completely clean track record in detecting counterfeits. We also work closely with the police and various databases that have been developed to check provenance.
What products do customers ask for and why?
Most of our sales come from the popular brands listed on our website, such as Rolex, Cartier, Chanel and Hermès. We also offer a concierge service sourcing items we don’t currently have in stock, or rare models. We can find almost anything and have helped some of the world’s most renowned concierge services locate items. A lot of our first-time clients become repeat customers because of the way we look after them. We offer unrivalled warranties for our watches, a 30-day returns policy for all items, and buy-back guarantees. We are always completely transparent in everything we do and try to provide as much information as possible.
Customers can sell pre-owned goods through Xupes. What other services do you offer?
From the very start, we found that clients would ask us if we were interested in buying their items. Clients often don’t actually realise the value of what they are selling; by providing prices for both consignment sale and outright purchase we let clients know exactly what we can sell their items for. It’s this openness that our clients value. Alongside consignment we offer part exchange and outright sale for clients looking to sell their items. Other services we are able to offer include our in-house accredited watch workshop, with general timepiece servicing, restoration, battery replacement and more. We also offer repair and restoration of jewellery.
What is your favourite Rolex and why?
Despite Rolex being one of the main brands we sell, it’s not actually a brand from which I currently own a product. I’ve always been interested in some of the lesser-known and more unusual watch brands. That said, if I were to buy a Rolex and money were no object it would be an early Paul Newman Daytona model 6239 ‒ something rather special and an investment for the future. I wish I had bought one a client offered me five years ago; it would have at least quadrupled in value since.
As a family-owned business, how do you collectively handle each pre-owned category? Do you each have an area of expertise?
We each have completely different skill sets and areas of expertise and I think that’s why it works so well. My relationship with my father has really evolved throughout the nine years we’ve been working together, and we have established a mutual respect for each other. Frank is the backbone of the business, with his accounting knowledge and experience. I’m the one innovating and pushing ideas forwards. The family also includes my wife Kirsty, who helps manage our stock, Rebecca my sister, who manages our marketing, Alex my brother, who is a watch sales consultant, and Hugh my brother-in-law, who is editor of our journal.
How do you decide on the best pieces to offer customers? Do you have strict criteria?
We understand that every customer is different. Our products are often chosen as a reflection of personality and taste, and we do everything we can to cater to each individual’s needs. Whether you deal with us online or in person we will go through a series of questions to understand exactly what is required. We really don’t believe in a hard sale, and the team shares a love of the products we sell.
Have you had any bespoke requests for a rare and unique piece of art or jewellery?
All the time. We recently created a bangle based on a client’s initial sketch. It was an incredible design that had to be hand-finished and engraved and then have a special coating. We also recently sourced and hand delivered an extremely rare £550,000 Richard Mille tourbillon watch for a client in Hong Kong.
What is the secret behind becoming one of the UK’s biggest pre-owned retailers?
We believe we are uniquely positioned in the market because of our multifaceted business model and the fact that we have always delivered the best service and the best quality of products available. Ensuring these values are scalable is very difficult and that’s something we try to do steadily, without compromise. The pre-owned market is full of fakes, fraud, stolen goods and many other pitfalls and we aim to be the brand that people turn to when considering pre-owned.
Xupes was established in 2009; what’s next in 2018 and beyond?
There is a lot planned for this year and beyond. We aim to establish ourselves further as the authority on pre-owned luxury in the UK and also Europe. We are exploring opportunities for key retail locations to support our growing online presence. The luxury retail industry is always evolving, so we want to make sure we are at the forefront, offering our clients the best possible experience and the most desirable products.
The evolution of the internet and technology will also play a huge role, I’m sure ‒ it’s staggering to think how far online shopping has come since I started this business. It’s very important that we continue to evolve Xupes by experimenting with new technology to benefit our team and, more importantly, our clients.