The North American market remains the strongest for watches, according to the Deloitte Swiss Watch Industry Study 2015. Watch executives surveyed believe the US market will continue to drive growth in the coming months, particularly in light of the declining Asian market. U.S. retail jewelers have a real opportunity to create their own niche in this important product category. Industry insiders share some insights into how jewelers can keep watch sales ticking.
Mix & Mingle
Gary Girdvainis, publisher of WristWatch and AboutTime magazines advises jewelers curate a mix of cornerstone brands and cool lesser-known names to develop a selection unique to their local market. “Mingle brands that are not so similar in different categories—fashion, sporty, classic—and offer a range of prices,” he says, noting that you need a name brand to draw people in. “Avoid brands that are all over the Internet. Amazon is the death knell for any brand; they sell products for less than they pay for them.”
When considering next gen consumers, he notes that millennials are brand centric to a point. “What’s important to them are transparency, good design, and great value.” He advocates jewelers conduct focus groups and survey customers to find out what they would like to see.
Focus on Value
Authenticity and quality for fair value are two very important qualities required by today’s knowledgeable consumer, cites Michael Benavente, executive vice president of sales for Bulova. “We are entering an interesting moment and business cycle for watches that are fairly priced and crafted with high perceived value codes and reliability.”
Girdvainis cites that these hallmarks are found in brands like Bulova, Citizen and Seiko. “I love these brands for what they are: offering innovative solar and satellite technologies, multi-functions, and great design for affordable prices. You can move collectors and enthusiasts with watches that are design driven, under $1,000 retail, with decent mechanical movement, sapphire glass, a solid, sport looking watch.” Many Best of Baselworld press included the latest launches of Bulova, Citizen, and Seiko
Courting the Ladies
Jewelry and watch blogger Barbara Palumbo of adornmentality.com launched a new blog whatsonherwrist.com dedicated solely to women and watches, and after her first visit to Baselworld announcing her endeavor, got an earful about this untapped market. She hails 2016, Year of the Woman! In a sit down with a major luxury brand, Palumbo was told that 80% of the watches produced by them are men’s and 20% are women’s. But 55% of Swiss watches sold by volume are women’s. Her take after visiting dozens of brands glad to hear what she was doing is that many are upping the ante for women. She says marketing watches to self-purchasing women now would give jewelers a jump on what may likely be a mass marketing campaign in the near future. “Showing the world what’s on her wrist today could very well be the right hand ring of yesterday.”
Among the brands paying attention, Citizen launched Ambiluna in its Ladies L Series. Inspired by architect Sou Fujimoto and supervised by fashion journalist Yoshiko Ikoma, the collection embraces sustainability (Eco-Drive powered) and craftsmanship in timeless, modern, minimalist designs. While Seiko highlighted its solar powered Tressia line of smaller, jewelry inspired designs with diamonds on the bezel, mother-of-pearl dials, and delicate links in architectural patterned bracelets. And, Bulova introduced in its Ladies Diamond collection of ergonomic designs and nature-inspired motifs, as well as new Moon phase watches.
Besler advises jewelers to build on their brand relationships for in-store events, co-op advertising, and sponsorships. “Also, use your website like a magazine rather than a catalog, and hire professional writers to provide fresh content.”
Barker advocates that retailers be more in tune with the individual brands they carry. “They should learn which models are the newest and most exciting and place those in the front of the case. This will draw more customers, especially when they see the advertised models in the case in front of them. To make that connection for a buyer is special. We also recommend retailers become more digitally involved and hold these capabilities. Citizen offers a micro-site to each retailer that directly connects the customer with Citizen.”
Michael Benavente, executive vice president of sales for Bulova, emphasizes the need for jewelers to take the same “omnichannel” approach that the big national accounts have embraced. “Wherever the consumer is shopping is how they need to approach their business—mobile, web or brick we must all continually evolve and search. We can’t stand still today.”
One of the biggest issues a jeweler faces today, with a highly Internet savvy customer, is price shopping and Internet competition, cites Alan Grunwald, president of Belair Time Corporation, Lakewood, New Jersey private label watch manufacturer. One way jewelers are overcoming this challenge is promoting private label. “It allows jewelers to put their own store name or brand on the watches and end the story for Internet competition. The beautiful part is you can get started with as few as a dozen watches to enjoy the prestige and exclusivity private branding can offer!”