PARIS — As it prepares to celebrate its 160th anniversary, Boucheron is getting a facelift.
Over the next 12 months, the Place Vendôme jeweler will unveil a new advertising campaign, a fresh store concept and a renovated Paris flagship as part of a wide-ranging overhaul orchestrated by chief executive officer Hélène Poulit-Duquesne in preparation for the milestone next year.
Since joining the company in September 2015, the former Cartier executive has set about attracting a younger customer with the launch of a more accessibly priced collection, in addition to conquering new territories such as China, where the brand has no stores.
“Very little had been done to grow the house in the last few years. There was not a lot of investment,” Poulit-Duquesne told WWD. “There are entire regions of the world where we still don’t have a presence, so that’s one of our key priorities.”
The most visible sign of change is at 26 Place Vendôme, where founder Frédéric Boucheron set up shop in 1893, becoming the first jeweler with a presence on the historic square.
The 18th-century building, known as the Hôtel de Nocé, is undergoing a one-year renovation under the supervision of Michel Goutal, chief architect of historic monuments, who has previously worked on the Louvre museum.
The store, which will double in surface to 7,400 square feet, will be opened up to include an additional floor and incorporate the building’s monumental staircase. It will feature an interior design by Pierre-Yves Rochon, who has worked on hotels including the Four Seasons George V in Paris and the Savoy in London.
“We want this to be one of the most beautiful buildings in Paris, but it’s about the experience, rather than purely retail. That is why we chose someone specialized in hotels,” said Poulit-Duquesne.
The building is owned by Kering, parent company of Boucheron, which has been on a renovation spree of late. The French conglomerate last year unveiled its new headquarters on the site of the former Laennec Hospital, and is building offices for its Saint Laurent brand in a former Cistercian abbey.
The Boucheron store is set to reopen in the fall of 2018 and will be located directly opposite Louis Vuitton’s future flagship, operated by rival LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton.
Before then, the brand will unveil its new store concept with the opening of a boutique in Geneva in November, to be followed by a flagship in Moscow. Based on the concept of a Parisian apartment, the design is the work of Yann Le Coadic and Alessandro Scotto.
“I am hunting for vintage furniture because I want each store to feel different,” said Poulit-Duquesne, who has also reviewed the way that jewelry is presented. “Central displays should always be horizontal. In a lot of stores, the tables have been renovated and we have removed bell jar displays, which I don’t find inviting.”
Boucheron, which has 60 stores worldwide, has a strong following in Russia and the Middle East, but has yet to open its first store in China. It is looking for a suitable location in Shanghai or Beijing.
“We don’t plan to double the number of points of sale over the next five years. We will continue to grow our network, but we expect most of the revenue increase to come from organic growth,” she said, adding that some underperforming boutiques will be relocated.
“We have launched a training program for our sales teams focused on assessing key performance indicators and improving the selling ceremony — things many other houses have worked on in recent years, and which had not necessarily been done at Boucheron,” Poulit-Duquesne added.
The executive has also set about upgrading Boucheron’s high jewelry collections, designed by creative director Claire Choisne, with a greater attention to finishing and the addition of more investment-grade gemstones. The first results could be seen in the house’s Hiver Impérial collection, which was presented at Kering’s headquarters during Paris Couture Week in a winter wonderland setting, complete with a soundtrack of howling wind.
It was designed in view of the Russian store opening later this year, but Poulit-Duquesne says an even more striking collection will be unveiled next year.
When she joined the house, she asked to see its gemstone stocks. “I realized that we didn’t necessarily have the level of quality I expected, and that there were stones that had been in stock for 70 years and weren’t really useful. So we cleaned up those stocks and started buying new stones,” she said.
She asked Choisne to continue working with unusual materials, something of a house trademark, but to start incorporating more large central stones. Hence, the Rostov medallion, inlaid with wood and diamonds to represent a dome as seen from above, is crowned with a round 4.14-carat diamond.
Among the other standout pieces in the collection were a diamond ring set with a 10.54-carat Zambian emerald, and the Baïkal necklace, made from rows of Akoya cultured pearls and moonstone beads, and set with a 78.33-carat Santa Maria oval aquamarine.
The spectacular piece was first worn by Salma Hayek, wife of Kering chairman and ceo François-Henri Pinault, at the Cannes Film Festival in May. Boucheron, which says it does not pay actresses to wear its creations, has increased its presence on the red carpet since Kering became an official partner of the festival in 2015.
“It’s extremely important, because it gives the designs a human dimension,” said Poulit-Duquesne. “I always say that jewelry is meant to be worn.”
She tries on every creation to make sure it is as wearable as it is beautiful. “A pair of earrings that is too heavy can give you a migraine and ruin your evening,” she said. “As a woman, I value the importance of avoiding shoes that hurt, a dress that’s too tight or jewelry that’s uncomfortable.”
For everyday wear, Boucheron recently launched a new variation on its signature Serpent Bohême line featuring colored stones such as lapis lazuli, onyx and amethyst. Its core price range of 1,500 euros to 3,000 euros compares with an average price of around 5,000 euros for the Quatre ring, another house pillar.
“For the moment, the sales results are very good — largely above expectations,” she reported.
Boucheron is increasing brand awareness through a greater focus on digital communications, which this year will account for 50 percent of its media spend, compared with almost nothing two years ago.
The jeweler recently launched targeted campaigns with the local editions of Vogue magazine in Japan and China — the latter including an edgy short film called “All That You Can’t Leave Behind,” featuring model and actress Du Juan.
It will roll out a new global advertising campaign in September centered on its brand identity, as opposed to any particular product. The company plans to work with several brand ambassadors for next year’s anniversary, in addition to staging exhibitions in a few cities, including Paris, and publishing a coffee table book with Editions de la Martinière.
“It’s the first time Boucheron will speak to a general audience,” said Poulit-Duquesne. “Of course, we are going to talk about our past, because 160 years of history is magical, but we don’t want it to be limited to that — we also want to position ourselves for the future.”