THE MIDAS TOUCH

Lebanon 2013 | TOURISM & RETAIL | INTERVIEW

TBY talks to Gerard Tufenkjian, President of Tufenkjian Frères, on the luxury jewelry sector and the nature and demands of his exclusive clientèle.

Gerard Tufenkjian
BIOGRAPHY
Gerard Tufenkjian is President of Tufenkjian Frères, a more than century old, world-renowned jewelry house.

How has Tufenkjian Frères evolved in recent years?

Our company is over 100 years old. It was started by my father, and it is run today by myself and my two brothers. We have expanded the company from being a small jewelry shop to an international name. Since 1909, Tufenkjian has been designing jewelry for a discerning clientèle who seek treasures that are stunning and timeless. Traveling from all over the globe, jewelry lovers enter our luxurious showroom knowing they will find precious gems, captivating designs, and the superior quality they desire. Today, we are proud to carry on our father's legacy as Lebanon's most prestigious fine jeweler, recognized for our expertise and for our ability to consistently create jewelry that dreams are made of. We have earned an unrivaled reputation for jewelry excellence in the region.

Where do most of your customers come from?

Many Arab countries are experiencing instability at the moment, and Europe is in a bad economic situation as well. Traditionally, our customers are from the Gulf, Europe, and the US. In addition, we also have some buyers from Africa.

How has Tufenkjian been performing in Lebanon?

In recent years, we have experienced our best era, and the banking sector was able to support the jewelry businesses very well. Our fashion and tastes lie between the Arab world and Europe, and takes the best parts of both. This makes it more creative than other countries in terms of design.

“ We are waiting and watching to see what happens, and then we will decide on an active strategy. "

What would you say makes the Lebanese customer unique?

First, there are those that live in Lebanon on a relatively low salary. They tend to choose fashionable, smaller products. The Lebanese people who work abroad are generous and come back to Lebanon for their vacations. While they are here, they buy products like anyone from the Gulf region.

What is the focus of your growth strategy?

Currently, ours is a defensive strategy. We are waiting and watching to see what happens, and then we will decide on an active strategy. The sector is not performing as it has in previous years. This year has been very bad. With the travel alert, our sales to foreigners have dropped dramatically. In order to keep the company surviving, we are traveling to other countries and selling in our customers' own territories.

How is Tufenkjian perceived in the region?

We only have a store under our name in Jordan. In other countries, we sell to the big name shops, which distribute our products. We focus on what we are good at, and this has allowed us to survive. Our clients must be able to trust us and rely on us.

Where do you see the company in 10 years, and what is your outlook on the future of the sector in general?

When you are in a defensive mode, it is difficult to answer that question. If you ask me in six months then I can give you a better reply, but right now we are on standby. Lebanon is a free country and you can run your business openly, with no need for clandestine transactions. In situations where there are no restrictions on your business, you have the opportunity to grow. However, in my opinion, the market is currently oversaturated.