It’s all in the timing

His company just celebrated a 15-year milestone but for Darren Bondar, the time it took for WATCH IT! to grow from a dream to reality, seems to have passed in the blink of an eye

by Irina Lytchak

photography by Ryan HK

Canadian Jeweller Magazine initially had the pleasure of working with WATCH IT! back in December of 2012 when we featured Lana Schmidt, owner of a WATCH IT! boutique at the Edmonton City Centre, as the cover star.

This time around, we went straight to the top and enlisted WATCH IT! CEO Darren Bondar to appear on the cover of our April/May 2015 issue. We wanted to reconnect with WATCH IT! because Bondar’s company has progressed on an immeasurable scale over the last couple of years, continuously helping entrepreneurs like Bondar make the dream of owning their own business a reality.

“It was nice to see a focus on a franchisee and an independent business owner,” says Bondar, recalling the December 2012 issue featuring Schmidt.

WATCH IT! currently operates 30 locations across the country, with an even split down the middle between the stores that are franchised and the ones that are corporately run. And after 15 years in the business, this 100 per cent-Canadian owned and operated boutique retailer has established itself as the top spot for the latest styles in timepieces, as well as sunglasses and accessories. To this day, WATCH IT! remains one of the only retail franchise companies in Canada that deals exclusively with fashion watches and accessories.

In the beginning…

For many of us, it’s hard to know what passion is going to sweep you off your feet once you get older but Bondar says that he always knew he wanted to be in retail.

“I loved the sales aspect of it right from the start. How that was going to form or how that formed into watches, I have no idea.”

Bondar’s retail journey began in his family’s furniture shop, where he worked on the sales floor from the age of 10. Working along his grandfather helped Bondar develop his own entrepreneurial skills and after completing his undergraduate degree at the University of Western Ontario and an MBA at the University of Alberta, he was ready to embark on his own venture with WATCH IT!.

“People thought I was crazy,” says Bondar, reminiscing back to when he first introduced his retail chain concept to the public. “But failure wasn’t an option for me. It doesn’t even cross my mind to this day.”

Bondar came up with the idea behind WATCH IT! during a time when people believed that the watch was going to become a thing of the past with the prevalence of mobile technology. But after all of these years, watches still reign, not only because they continue to be a top accessory for a man’s wardrobe but also because of the recent introduction of smartwatches, including the very exciting and long-awaited Apple Watch unveiling.

When it comes to the recent technical innovations in the watch world, Bondar thinks this is a great new stage for the industry.

“If there’s some consumers that really are into it and maybe haven’t worn
a watch in the past, now all of a sudden they’ll start wearing a watch because they like that technology integration and convenience,” he says. “We’ll see what happens with it but I think WATCH IT! is really in a great position to capitalize on these kind of new innovations that are coming out.”

By the numbers

WATCH IT! offers a very wide range of watch brands and styles but Bondar and his team are constantly keeping their eyes open for the latest thing. And although men dominate his client base, he knows how to keep the female side interested as well.

“We’re always on the hunt,” he says. “There are more and more licensed brands continuing to emerge and I think that’s going to keep the female customers interested in watches as well.”

For this entrepreneur, customer service was a key factor in the success of his company right from the start and something that’s he’s kept a top priority ever since starting to work the sales floor as a little boy. So it’s no wonder that WATCH IT! clients can expect only the best when they walk into any of the 30 and counting locations across the country.

“We want our customers to leave with an experience,” he says. “When I go into a store, I want to feel good and see that the sales associates are presentable and there’s good music playing, a good selection of products and somebody is going to be able to answer my questions and be knowledgeable. That’s important to me as a consumer and I hope that transcends right into what we’re trying to achieve in our own stores.”

Another way Bondar ensures that his company is constantly staying ahead in the game is by always being on top of the trends and latest product releases. How does he do it? He makes it his top prority to be at all of the major shows around the world including JCK Las Vegas, Baselworld in Switzerland, CJ Expos Edmonton, and Accessories Market Week in New York among many others.

“We try to do all of the major trend fashion shows,” he says. “Between our corporate staff and our franchise partners, there’s definitely a WATCH IT! presence at all of the different shows across the country and the various key markets.”

It’s written in the stars

Going forward, WATCH IT! is still on the road to achieving Bondar’s long-term plan of establishing 40 stores across Canada. This year alone, the company has already announced three new locations set to open in Saskatoon, Calgary and the GTA, while the next two will be unveiled later on in 2015.

With Apple releasing it’s smartwatch this spring, the watch industry is set to enter a new era and Bondar ensures that WATCH IT! will be in on the action without missing a beat. “I think you’re going to see something pretty exciting from our stores around tech watches this year,” he divulges.

At the end of the day, everyone knows that to be successful in sales, you have to be passionate about the product. That’s why it’s no wonder that Bondar’s passion has spelled out such a tremendous amount of success for his company.

“We’re a specialty boutique and we’re very focused on what we do,” says Bondar. “Our big focus is on watches and there’s really nobody like us.” CJ

AT A GLANCE

NAME: WATCH IT!

OWNER: Darren Bondar

LOCATIONS: 30 stores across Canada

STAFF: 200

KNOWN FOR: watches, watches, and more watches (as well as accessories and sunglasses)

COOL FACTOR: WATCH IT! is one of the only retail franchise companies in Canada that deals exclusively with fashion watches and accessories

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