Please note that this article is only transcript of the interview released by Slovak web magazine -www.freshmagazine.eu. It was translated to our English speaking customers who wants to know some information from behind the scenes. Original article can be found here (only in Slovak language)
E-shop Toptime.eu, as one of few e-shops in Slovakia and Czech republic, is an authorized seller of wrist watches. Company was established in 2009 with an aim to sell watches from German and Swiss manufacturers. We have interviewed Peter Kožár, owner of Toptime.sk, to find out what it means to be an authorized seller, what are advantages and disadvantages of shopping online and what you need to build the greatest watch forum in Slovakia.
HOW COME A LAW SCHOOL GRADUATE STARTS TO RUN A SHOP WITH WATCHES?
The main reason is, that after high school I had not decided what I wanted to do. As math wasn’t my favorite, my father told me to study law. There supposed to be no math. First, I followed his advice, but soon realized, it’s not exactly what I wanted. Moreover, studying in a day form doesn’t mean many seminars and lectures. Law is a field one can study under the tree. All you need to do, is mug up laws. And as I didn’t know what to do with my free time, I was keen to do something amusing. Just as a hobby, for a start.
HOW WERE YOUR BEGINNINGS?
Fairly carefree, I have to admit. I was a university student and my parents supported me financially, So I didn’t need to worry about anything. Moreover, internet is amazing mostly because you don’t need to have pockets full of money to start business. Hosting and domain cost around 50 to 100 € a year. Even today I focus mostly on internet sale. But I also have a small and cosy showroom in the heart of Slovakia (Zvolen), where I exhibit some of my watches and where I can offer my clients a cup of coffee and talk in piece about the beauty of mechanical watches.
COMPETITION OF SIMILAR E-SHOPS IS NOWADAYS VERY BIG. WHAT MAKES YOU DIFFERENT?
I dare to say that products and services I offer to my clients are the main difference. I tried to bring new and somehow interesting brands to Slovak market, and at the same time, offer a great price/quality ratio. It’s not cheap fashion watches, but also not luxury brands that are usually unnecessarily expensive due to their incredibly expensive marketing and promotion. It’s middle-class. Mainly mechanical watches.
Concerning the offered services, I am trying to make sure that everything doesn’t end with purchase process. It’s not my main target. I keep inviting my customers to various events and exhibitions or just inform them about news in the world of watches or my offers. Warranty and after warranty service are a must.
SHOPPING ONLINE HAS ITS ADVANTAGES, BUT ALSO DISADVANTAGES. CUSTOMER EXPECTS SIGNIFICANTLY LOWER PRICES THAN IN STORES. HOW ABOUT YOU?
I am not a type of „shark“ entrepreneur. My job is not to fight with competition. I have my own way, and definitely not through the way of discounts. I highly value my work and I know that discount policy leads nowhere. In my shop you buy watches at full price, but if there is a problem in the next four or five years, we guarantee that we put your watch in order. Each entrepreneur who wants to do his business seriously, not just for one or two seasons knows that he needs to get a full price for his efforts. Only then he can use the money for potential service or other services he offers. Moreover, margin on some of my watches doesn’t reach margin of sellers from China, so sometimes, there is no space for reduction.
YOU STATE ON YOUR WEBSITE THAT YOU ARE AN AUTHORIZED SELLER OF ALL WATCHED FROM YOUR PORTFOLIO. WHAT DOES THAT MEAN?
It means that I buy watches and other accessories directly from manufactures or official distributors. It’s the only way how to make sure that in case of failure I can get a spare part or service directly at source! Some of so called "grey market" sellers purchase their products anywhere. Many times are the watches used, renewed or even false! This could never happen to me, as I get watches directly from the factory.
AT THE MOMENT, YOU ARE AN AUTHORIZED SELLER OF 14 WATCHES BRANDS. BASED ON WHAT YOU SELECT THEM?
They should meet several attributes. The main are:
- new brand on a Slovak market
- already mentioned great price/quality ratio customer gets for the given price
- certain uniqueness
I am an exclusive dealer of many of brands in my portfolio and so I am the only one on Slovak market.
LATELY, YOU HAVE ADDED A NEW BRAND DAMASKO. WHY DAMASKO?
I have hankered after this brand basically since the start of my company. But it’s kind of a brand that wouldn’t offer representation to anyone. Such brands usually require the seller has a store and offers certain services. And so it took some development from me. And as in the last two years I constantly bombed them with my requests, they probably lost the nerve and gave me their representation :)
Damasko is a relatively young brand (20 years of existence, editor’s note ...), however in a short time of their existence they own more than 70 patents! Watches have a typical German strict design, however technologically are very advanced and their top models are manufactured up to 90% in-house, i.e. in their own production. For such a young brand, that’s a really remarkable number, which required investments and development in millions of EUR. If I should mention some of their main assets, it is special hardened cases, that are 4 time more durable than common steel, ceramic ball bearings under lunette or special patented system of permanent lubrication of crown. Icing on the cake is silicon balance spring or escape wheel. Silicone is a very stabile material. You can stretch it, and it always returns to the same position. Moreover, it’s antimagnetic.
FOR THE PURCHASED WATCH YOU OFFER A 3 YEAR WARRANTY, SOMETHING WHAT YOU DON’T NEED TO DO LEGALLY. WHY?
I believe in my products, and so I dare to offer prolonged warranty which guarantees to my customers a three year service for their watch. Toptime, s.r.o. was launched in 2009 and until today we did only few repairs, so I could offer even longer warranty with a peace of mind.
WHAT SHOULD AN INTERNET SELLER CONSIDER BEFORE HE STARTS HIS E-SHOP WITH WRIST WATCHES?
If he takes his business seriously, he should realize that a e-shop couldn’t be run as sideline that from time to time makes some money.. It’s a business as any other and so the more time and energy you invest in it, the more you get back. I sometimes work in the evenings – but I don’t mind it, as my job is my hobby.
WHICH BRAND IS YOUR FAVORITE?
I like all brands in my portfolio, otherwise I would not offer them. I had three models from Squale. Although my absolutely favorite is a German brand Steinhart. Anyone who wants something more than just "battery" watch should opt for them. I have a very good relationship with owner; we talk on a phone quite often. The only problem is, you need to wait very long for many models - mainly up to two months, but sometimes even one year! However, it’s certainly worth it.
YOU HAVE MANAGED TO CREATE A BIGGEST WATCHES FORUM – HODINKOMANIA.SK, WHICH BRINGS TOGETHER PEOPLE TO WHOM WATCH TELLS MORE THAN JUST TIME. WHERE DOES THIS IDEA COME FROM?
From Mr. Sivek from Czech Chronoshop. I am very grateful for this idea. During one of our conversations, he told me, that he hadn’t understood why anybody had not stared it yet, while in Czech there is a similar forum with relatively big success. So I tried and it really was downhill from there. It’s important to find a certain „hole in a market“ and then there’s no need to even invest any money in it. Of course, we are just at the beginning and there is still a big amount of work to do.
DO YOU PARTICIPATE IN EXHIBITION BASELWORLD?
Yes, I do, together with my wife (Works in Toptime, s.r.o. editor note, ...), I have already purchased air tickets. Personally I prefer more intimate exhibitions, such as Viennatime. There you can virtually „touch“ the watches, while in Basel almost everything is under glass.
HAVE YOU VISITED ANY WATCH MAKERS MANUFACTORY?
About two hundred of them...But only through various expert magazines and You-tube:-) Unfortunately, I had no opportunity so far.
WHAT WAS YOUR FIRST WRISTWATCH?
Blue Casio G-Shock with nylon strap with velcro. I could wear them even today. G-Shock from Casio has a specific place for me, a perfect choice for those who seek cheap, reliable and highly resistant wristwatch.
WHICH WATCH IS YOUR FAVORITE AND WHY?
I can’t tell you a certain model, as I don’t have any watch "idol". I like pilot as well as elegant models from IWC or for example Panerai. Among my brands, it's already mentioned Steinhart, model Nay B Chrono II for example, but I don’t wear them, as they are quite big. For Christmas, I would like to get model Damasko DC 56.
DO YOU PREPARE FOR YOUR CUSTOMERS ANYTHING SPECIAL FOR CHRISTMAS?
At www.hodinkomania.sk, from 1st of December, you will find an advent calendar with some interesting offers. But it won’t be a large scale discount, mostly a support of forum members. However, anyone could become a forum member.
HOW DO YOU SPEND YOUR FREE TIME?
With my family, I have a little son, so I spent my time with him. The rest of my free time usually takes up computer. When you do internet business, it drags you to it to find out what’s going on or what are the news of “maniacs” from hodinkomania.sk, etc.
WHAT ARE YOUR PLANS FOR THE FUTURE?
I keep telling myself, that I would like to have a serious store with a window shop somewhere in Bratislava, but when I look at entrepreneur’s reality in Slovakia, I am quite glad I don’t need to deal with these problems. Let’s see what life has prepared for me.
Thank you for the interview