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in Business Aviation / People

MEBA2012: Putting The Jet Business in the shop window

Posted 11 December 2012 · Add Comment

Like all good shopkeepers Steve Varsano sometimes steps away from his store to meet his customers on their territory. And this week at MEBA, as Marcelle Nethersole found out, Varsano has a booth to do just that.

The Jet BusinessVarsano is the principal behind The Jet Business, the revolutionary London shop that sells just one thing – business jets. And visitors to its booth can get a taste of what it’s like to purchase a jet with a spot of virtual shopping.

“If you are looking to buy a business jet, you can visit us and use our specially designed software to whittle down the right aircraft for you,” said Varsano.
The Jet Business is the world’s first and only showroom for brokering pre-owned business jets.
Its glass showroom displays a full-size mock up of an Airbus ACJ319 cabin, designed by Design Q, which attracts a lot of passers-by at its enviable location by London’s Hyde Park Corner.
In its state-of-the-art showroom, designed by Argent Design, staff sit at desks designed like cockpits with ticker tape running above their heads, just like a trading floor.
Visitors to the showroom, which is by invitation only, can sit in front of a huge floor-to-ceiling digital screen – it’s from here that it’s down to business.
“A customised iPad application powers the showroom’s technology that compares and contrasts the various aircraft types to an individual’s profile,” explained Varsano.
To narrow down your options you are asked a list of questions including how much you want to spend, how many passengers you want to carry, what range you need, and what is the preference of aircraft age?
“Our full time analysts and business intelligence teams create the information engine using real time market intelligence to deliver unique market data,” added Varsano. “This information, including comparative graphic images and full size 1:1 cabin cross-sections of the jets can then be viewed on the large screens.”
If a customer doesn’t like the interior of their chosen jet, The Jet Business can also help with that.
“The advantage of the display screen is that customers can see details of the interior and if they don’t like what they see, we can change it at the press of a button. We have material swatches to hand that the customer can look at and feel. If they like a particular material from the swatch for the aircraft carpet, for example, we can change it on screen to the exact material. The technology we use enables the customer to feel like they are actually inside the jet,” said Varsano.
The Jet Business focuses on the upper end of the business sector, including aircraft types from Airbus, Boeing, Bombardier, Cessna, Dassault, Embraer, Gulfstream and Hawker Beechcraft.
The company also markets a number of pre-owned business jets for owners as their exclusive broker. It also recently added helicopters as a new proposition.
“We can take the showroom’s Airbus ACJ cabin and fit a helicopter interior inside if one of the OEMs would like to showcase a new model,” explained Varsano.
The Jet Business team speak to every jet owner it follows in the market every three months. “We want to know when anyone is buying or selling. When they’re selling, we take all the information, such as avionics, and maintenance history, and put it into our database,” said Varsano.
So, how did the man from New York get this very unique idea?
Varsano, a pilot himself, explained: I’ve worked in the jet selling market for 30 years. Over the years I couldn’t understand how there wasn’t an aviation showroom where clients could come and sit down and talk about their specific requirements. It was not so long ago that 95% of business was conducted over the telephone and you never really saw the customer. This was bizarre to me even then. I wanted to put on a smart suit and speak face-to-face with a customer.
“I thought how do I build something where I can get the client to come and visit me? So, six years ago, I started drawing and sketching ideas. It took four years of putting the business plan together and a further two to find the right location and design the showroom. The Jet Business finally opened January 2012.”
The Jet Business has already attracted a lot of interest.
“Every client that has walked through the doors has been genuinely interested in the aircraft market and the technology we are showcasing,” said Varsano. “Some 20% of visitors are first time buyers but the majority of our business is from repeat, referral clients and a rapidly increasing base of new face-to-face introductions.”
In the three decades Varsano has worked in the industry he has seen a lot change in the jet business market.
He said: “I got my first job selling jets almost 30 years ago. During that time I did leave the industry briefly to work in investment banking and private equity. When I returned to the aviation industry it had completely changed. Before I left, 80% of clients were in America with the rest scattered between Europe and South America.
But, when I returned, I discovered buyers were from Mongolia, Nigeria, Angola, Russia and China – far distant lands at the time.
“Today, this extends greatly to the CIS countries and the Middle East region. A lot of my customers are from the Middle East. I can count about nine members of royal families from three different countries in the region. It is a very big and important market for us.
“The world is now constantly growing with high-net-worth people who like to travel by private jet. And right now, there are 19,000 jets in the world.”
Varsano said that London is the perfect location for The Jet Business. “London is the best place for me as nearly everyone who can afford a plane, or charter one, who is based in the Middle East, Africa or the CIS countries or Europe, comes through London. I can really capture the eyes of the people being based there. My company is global. The economy in London isn’t going to affect me because my clients are all over the globe. But I want to carry on enhancing what we have already.”
Varsano plans to open another store in Beijing and doesn’t rule out a Middle East location.
It’s very clear that he loves his job and is thrilled to meet new customers, not just for potential business but also to chat to them on any level.
“The super high-net-worth and most successful entrepreneurs in the world come in to the showroom,” said Varsano. “I sit with them for two hours or so, not just talking about planes, but their businesses, their sectors, their economies, their country customs, what they think about the global financial issue, what markets and sectors are growing and not growing. I get a real education from being around these people. What you read in the newspaper can be negative but speaking with the people I encounter you hear the positive that is going on in the world. It’s fantastic to speak to these people.”
The whole The Jet Business team is at MEBA to showcase its product.
“We’re all excited to meet existing clients and potential ones here at the show,” said Varsano. “The selection and completion applications are very easy to use. We welcome anyone to the stand and we’ll show you how it works. It’s one of a kind.”


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