Navigating the Crisis | William Asprey on leading William and Son through COVID-19

The 7th generation of the Asprey family to specialise in the sale of luxury goods, William Asprey may have closed his distinctive Mayfair department store but he has thrown the online doors wide open as the brand adapts to the challenges of coronavirus. Read on for more in our latest interview on how leaders of Britain’s best-known luxury brands are steering their businesses through the pandemic.

As the Chairman and Founder of William & Son, William Asprey is the 7th generation of the Asprey family to specialise in the sale of luxury goods. In 1999, William founded William & Son, a veritable cornucopia of predominantly British-made luxury merchandise from exclusive watch brands, handcrafted jewellery, infinitely useful small leather goods and luggage to luxurious leather clad board games and sterling silver ornaments.

How are you navigating William & Son through the current COVID-19 crisis? ​

We have had to temporarily shut the store and furlough a number of our staff, but have kept enough on to fulfil the existing orders we have and to deal with online orders and enquiries. The marketing team are working hard to raise our brand awareness and continue sharing content across all our social platforms.

What has the situation taught you about leadership? 

​Communication is key and keeping in touch with all staff members to make them feel wanted and needed and part of the family which they are. I also need to ensure that those that are still working have what they need to do their jobs.

And what has it taught you about your business? ​

We need to be more proactive online and keep in touch with our clients. Our clients have historically liked coming into the shop to see the team and browse the collections.  This may well change in the future so we have to find other ways of putting ourselves into our clients thoughts, and show them the products digitally.

How are you – and the wider business – supporting your people? ​

We are keeping in touch through WhatsApp, emails and phone calls, and sharing amusing videos and trying to keep in touch this way. We are doing this with both staff and suppliers who are invaluable and good friends.

What do you see as the potential long-lasting changes to William & Son as a retail business?

​I hope we will continue to expand our online sales, this in turn will take us to different age groups and parts of the market we have yet to reach, but we have to keep in contact and not ignore our existing and very supportive clientele. Communication is key! We need to make everyone feel wanted and appreciated from staff to clients and suppliers.

How are you, on a personal level, dealing with lockdown? ​

Alcohol and dog walking!!

williamandson.com

If you are the leader of a Walpole member or partner and have the time to talk to Walpole – and the wider luxury sector – on how you are navigating your business through the current Covid-19 crisis, please contact Jenni Rayner on jenni.rayner@thewalpole.co.uk; we’d love to hear from you.

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