CORDER’S COLUMN: World-beating retailers will ensure the UK keeps winning

WatchPro managing editor Rob Corder.

Are Christmas bonuses still something that employees can expect in Britain today? The majority of the watch brands and retailers we asked say they are not, although there will be plenty of champagne and performance-related pay being sprayed around as we approach the end of an exceptional year for luxury watch sales in the UK.

WatchPro has written for several months about the windfall British luxury watch retailers are enjoying, explained largely by the price difference they have against stores around the world thanks to the decline in the value of the pound.

A 10% increase in prices announced by LVMH, Rolex, Richemont and others, hasn’t dampened demand. GfK reports that sales of watches costing more than £1000 were up over 53% in October because the price rise just caused average transaction values to increase.

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This points to woefully under-reported explanations for the UK’s incredible performance, which are that we live in one of the greatest countries on earth; our biggest cities are second to none when it comes to welcoming visitors; and, most importantly we have truly exceptional luxury watch retailers.

In an interview with WatchPro that will appear in the January edition, Aurum Holdings CEO Brian Duffy put it succinctly: “This is the best market in the world for luxury Swiss watches. We get it; we appreciate it; we really value Swiss watches for what they are; and the UK therefore performs so well,” he said.

The luxurious and innovative retail environment of stores like Watches of Switzerland's Regent Street flagship is setting a new global standard that is leaving the rest of the world lagging behind.

The luxurious and innovative retail environment of stores like Watches of Switzerland’s Regent Street flagship is setting a new global standard that is leaving the rest of the world lagging behind.

Aurum’s Watches of Switzerland has been one of the greatest beneficiaries of the current boom, and the company richly deserves the success after investing in some of the best retail sites in the country, and developing a highly innovative in store environment that mixes technology, deep knowledge of watches and outstanding stock.

The Watch Gallery has made similar investments in skills and space, and will add 1000 square feet to its Wonder Room in London’s Selfridges. Harrods is due to refurbish its Fine Watch Room early next year.

Luxury watch independents have also benefited because they provide outstanding service in world class boutiques. Berry’s, Wempe, Prestons, George Pragnell, Harrington & Hallworth, Laings, Parkhouse Marcus and many more are among the finest stores not just in their local areas, but in the world.

It will be impossible for the UK market to continue notching year-on-year monthly increases of 50% in 2017; but what I do expect to see is for this country to continue rising up the league of nations.

We’ve overtaken China for imports of Swiss watches since the summer of 2016, and overtaken Germany and France for the year-to-date. Amazingly, Italy remains ahead of us.

I think that it is the quality of our retailers that will ensure we remain among the top five destinations in the world for fine watches.

Italy, China and Japan could all be overtaken, which would make the UK the third biggest market in the world next year, and that certainly would be something to celebrate.

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