Many wealthy Middle Easterners visit London at least once a year, usually for a break from the hot summer, so perhaps it is no surprise that the first shop window for business jets is in an up-market area of the UK capital at One Grosvenor Place–just across the road from Buckingham Palace. The shop is home to The Jet Business, the showroom where would-be business aircraft buyers can evaluate options, or use its purpose-developed app that helps buyers select preferences to assist with their choices.
Since opening his store in January this year, The Jet Business founder Steve Varsano has been overwhelmed with interest from clients, who range from billionaires to Boeing. He also has seen a trebling of the number of preowned aircraft on the company books.
Clients who come through the door–which often include people who have noticed the store when driving round the Hyde Park Corner roundabout near the Knightsbridge and Mayfair districts–potentially include many who already own or charter aircraft. “I’d say about a quarter of the people who come in here don’t know much about airplanes, even if they say they do,” Varsano told AIN. His view is that the aircraft sales process has been stuck in the Dark Ages, and 21st century technology allows it to be brought up to date. “We take a two- to three-month process and reduce it to 20 minutes,” he said.
Varsano’s team recently created a mobile version of the showroom’s iPad app, which was developed to take clients through the selection process on a giant 26-foot screen. This is useful for showing aircraft and cabins at full scale and it allows prospective buyers to make a quick selection from 131 aircraft types, based on their individual travel needs. Being able to take the app out to a customer’s offices is a new option for The Jet Business (Stand 594).
“Clients can’t download the app themselves, as it is proprietary. It took two years to design the software,” Varsano said. “But we empower people to answer their own questions; after 30 seconds with the iPad they already know how to navigate the program.”
Sellers, ranging from private individuals to corporations, as well as manufacturers, have quickly realized the potential of using the app. Varsano said he has been discussing the concept of manufacturers having their own private viewings with potential buyers, and he claims he is open to ideas on how to further use what is a powerful communications and educational resource. “The sales people from the manufacturers like to bring clients here, and we’re happy to help them because they’ll tell their friends about the experience,” he said.
The store has an Airbus ACJ-sized cabin mock-up (created by the UK’s Design Q), which also allows smaller models to be simulated so the customer can actually feel what the aircraft would be like. Then, once a customer chooses a model, the process helps him/her search the market to see what aircraft are available and at what prices.
To populate this database, Varsano’s team is constantly contacting owners, focusing on super-midsize jets up to the largest bizliners. The data spans 15 to 20 key models, and The Jet Business tries to contact every owner/seller every three months.
Recent additions to the shop’s available stock include a 2010 Bombardier Challenger 605, a new Boeing BBJ, a Gulfstream G550, a 2010 Gulfstream 450 and a 2008 Global Express XRS. Varsano is also a board member of San Francisco charter operator XOJet, for which he is currently marketing a Challenger 605.
The Jet Business can also create an interactive PDF presentation to send to customers, with the aircraft selection process laid out in around 150 pages. This also acts as a useful recap for clients who have visited the store and have been through the selection process. Varsano said that once a letter of intent is signed for an aircraft, delivery to the customer can be in as little as six weeks.
Varsano believes that the store that he spent almost five years planning is leading the way in simplifying private aircraft sales by allowing quick selection and sourcing of candidate aircraft. While he sees London as “a fantastic central hub,” he said he is considering opening stores elsewhere.