Quality will always sell
“There are many people working in the pre-owned luxury goods space and doing it very badly,” says co-founder and CEO Joseph McKenzie. “Frankly it’s full of wheeler dealers.” That’s why McKenzie, along with his father and fellow co-founder Frank, wanted Xupes – pronounced Zoops – to be different from the outset.
From day one, the values that guided the company were quality, trust and exceptional attention to detail. “We turn away an awful lot of products because the condition is not good enough or the provenance isn’t secure,” says McKenzie.
Having an in-house skill set allows us to be very involved in our buying processes. We can really pick out great products and know what we’re talking about.
Joseph McKenzie, Xupes
Finding the right investors and experts
Investment fund manager Downing supported Xupes early on in 2017, and invested around £3m in a series of “bite-sized tranches”. “They joined us when we were trying to find an investor who shared our vision and understood our business,” McKenzie explains.
He says the money has principally been invested in acquiring stock, servicing it and getting it website-ready. Xupes has invested capital in attracting the very best people. Their team includes in-house specialists with wide-ranging expertise as diverse as luxury handbags and those with a trained eye for art and design. McKenzie has even hired watchmakers who have worked for the top brands.
“Having an in-house skill set allows us to be very involved in our buying processes. We can really pick out great products and know what we’re talking about,” he says. “I think this is really key to building that trust.”
Right now, there is even a 1965-vintage Picasso drawing and a William Turner watercolour, thought to be a remnant from a larger work destroyed by a World War II rocket attack.
Small and smart: creating value
Being a young business, McKenzie says the company has had to be “clever” in how it acquires customers. This means being unrivalled in their attention to customer service “so you don’t miss any opportunity”.
Its online-offline hybrid business model has been very effective in building trust between them and their highly discerning potential customers. At its site in a 17th century converted barn in Bishop’s Stortford, customers are welcome to book personal time with a Xupes consultant.
“Out of our website-driven sales, 40% of buyers come in to collect, which is good because you get to meet your customers and build relationships,” says McKenzie.
“Often when we’re dealing with a client, they quickly realise that we offer solutions for all of their luxury shopping desires. We have had client’s that start by purchasing a watch, then their loved one notices something else on our site. And then they realise they have a vintage bag or piece of art hanging in their home they can consign with us,” he adds.
Eyes on the prize
The all-important first meeting is often an introduction to a client for life. To date, Xupes has sold over 4,500 watches, 2,000 bags and 5,500 pieces of art, including some of the world’s most sought-after brands such as Patek Philippe and Cartier.
But McKenzie has his sights on even bigger growth. “In order to achieve the scale we’d like, we’ll have to put a lot more money into our stock,” he explains. “With more financial capital behind us, the business can scale really easily.”