Established in 1978 by Anthony Shum, Shum’s Watches and Jewellery is a family run business located in the heart of Chinatown in Sydney’s Sussex Street. They don’t just sell watches here, they sell experiences, housing some of the most renowned brands in the industry. Earlier this year, we caught up with Vanessa Shum, the Director of Shum’s Watches and Jewellery to get a better understanding of what makes this family run business so different.
Going back in time…
Shum’s Watches & Jewellery is a family business which was started by my father in 1978. By background, my father Anthony Shum is a watchmaker and my grandfather is a clockmaker. Hence, watchmaking has always been part of our DNA.
When my father first came to Australia, he came with 200 dollars in his pocket, and with that, opened up a shop on Hay St, Sydney. Today, we are a boutique representing 18 brands in store, which would only have been possible with the long term support of our customers. To this day, we still have clients who come back to us to purchase watches and get their timepieces serviced with the same level of trust and comfort they had 30+ years ago.
Currently we carry brands with a variety of price points including the entry level brands such as Tissot and Oris, luxury level brands such as Omega and IWC, all the way up to a Breguet or a Vacheron Constantin.
It’s been around 39 years that we’ve been in the business and in every step of the journey, we’ve always been evolving whilst staying true to our values. Having such a broad range is definitely part of our strategy because we don’t only cater to the tourist market but also to the local market.
Personally, I came into the business around 4-5 years ago and it’s always lovely to come in and be greeted by someone who says ‘I’ve known you since you were a child!’. It’s definitely heartwarming.
At the moment we have one boutique. We initially had 4 points of sale in the past targeting different markets and showcasing different product ranges. However, we found a location that would house all the brands we have under one roof, and moved to 419 Sussex Street, Sydney. This has been ideal as it is pretty much in the heart of Chinatown in Sydney, which is a great tourist attraction and of course a great food destination.
The Shum’s touch…
We are a family business and stay true to our values of customer satisfaction, looking after our staff and giving back to the community. We strive to find the right product for all our customers, hence we continue to carry a broad offering of Swiss watch brands with various price points.
A lot of our staff members have been with us for over 20-30 years and they treat the store almost as if it is their own store. They are family, and this experience is what we would like our customers to feel as well. We hope that when you walk into our store, you don’t feel intimidated to ask questions and can comfortably go and find a watch that is best suited for you. Whether your budget is big or small, we’re here to cater to your requirements.
We have been blessed with good fortune and the support of our clients over the years, hence we firmly believe in giving back to the community in the form of charity work. Earlier this year, through our affiliations with the Way In Network, we teamed up with Longines to help establish a research grant for the Australian Gynecological Cancer Foundation (AGCF). This raised much needed funding and awareness for research of women’s cancer, which we hope will benefit the lives of many future Australian families.
Our approach is more about getting to know you first. We find this is easier, as customers can relate to us better and moreover develop that level of trust in us. Ultimately we would like our customers to feel comfortable purchasing from us, and recommending Shum’s Watches & Jewellery to their family and friends.
If you’ve just started your journey into the world of watchmaking, welcome! There is just so much to learn and so much to see. But I would personally say, take your time and get a better understanding of what watchmaking is all about. The more a customer understands a watch, the more they can appreciate it. The amount of time and effort that goes into making a watch and the R & D behind it, is truly fascinating. Once you understand that, irrespective of the brand, you will start looking at the product for what it is. And I think that is what is important.
Australia has a lot of potential when it comes to fine watchmaking. We are so isolated and therefore I feel we haven’t had as much exposure in the watch industry, in comparison to say, Europe. At this moment, the market is challenging, not only from an Australian perspective but globally. Everyone is a lot more careful. Overall I see a very positive outlook for Australia because we are a very young country and there are still a lot of people who haven’t really been exposed to fine watchmaking.
As far as local Australians go, the local market is very influenced by marketing. Certain brands that execute their marketing campaigns well are Omega, IWC and Longines. Longines is a brand that has been close to people’s heart for a while now. It is well recognized and trusted globally.
There is so much to learn in the watch industry, and the more people know they can then appreciate their timepieces. This applies to caring and looking after their watches, the same way people look after their cars. It really helps with companies like Hours and Minutes and bloggers which are platforms for people to learn more about watchmaking, especially within Australia. People’s eyes are definitely starting to open.
Social media has enhanced the speed of which people get educated. A good example of a watch brand that has done extremely well in terms of educating from a materials point of view is RADO. I personally like to follow them and to find out more on the treatment of ceramic and how it’s actually done. Youtube channels too are amazing avenues.
On behalf of the team at Hours and Minutes, we would like to thank Vanessa Shum, Director, Shum’s Watches & Jewellery and her entire team for making this interview possible.