Dezeen co-founder Marcus Fairs made the decision to close the company’s pioneering online watch shop this summer as margins were squeezed by rising competition and the weakness of the pound following the Brexit vote. WatchPro caught up with the style guru and digital publisher to learn more about the challenges facing the fashion watch market.
WatchPro: Minimalist watches from the likes of Olivia Burton, Daniel Wellington and Cluse are more popular than ever, but you have withdrawn from this market. Why?
Marcus Fairs: Over the past few years minimalist watches have gone from being a niche product to mainstream. I think Dezeen Watch Store did a lot to popularise this style but once more affordable brands such as Olivia Burton and Daniel Wellington became widely available, the market became much more saturated and competitive. Dezeen is at heart a media brand and the watch store became a distraction for us and we didn’t feel it was worth making the investment required to keep it competitive.
However Dezeen may continue to collaborate with watch brands — we have a limited-edition watch created with Braun going on sale in September and if that goes well, we may well do more.
WP: You mention that margins are being squeezed out of this end of the market. Can you expand on that?
MF: The fall in the value of sterling after the Brexit vote had an impact on us as most of our products are sourced overseas. As we priced our watches in GBP we at first saw an increase in orders from abroad, taking advantage of our lower prices. But the increased costs kicked in early this year and wiped out the gains.
WP: Do you think that watch design is stuck in a rut? Is it time to move on from the Scandi craze?
MF: I think the whole minimalist trend has been fantastic for many reasons. Lots of new brands have emerged to challenge the traditional watchmakers, filling a big gap in the market. Remember, only a few years ago, if you wanted a stylish but affordable watch, there was Swatch, Fossil and very little else. Now there are dozens of great products to choose from at very good prices.
WP: What do you think of connected/smart watches? Could these be the next big thing?
MF: As wearable tech get cheaper and cheaper, I think connectivity will start to appear in more and more products, and not just watches. However I think there will continue to be a market for non-smart watches for the foreseeable future, partly because people view them as fashion statements rather than functional devices and partly because tech becomes obsolete so quickly, so you’d end up having to change your watch every couple of years or so.