EXCLUSIVE: UK retailers want to sell smart watches

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Traditional watch retailers in the UK do not expect smart watches to dramatically affect their businesses in the coming months, according to snap survey conducted by WatchPro the day after Apple unveiled its Apple Watch.

78 retailers were asked a series of questions in the survey. 19 completed the survey, ranging from UK-wide multiples and web stores to independent jewellers. Only four out of 19 said they expect to be selling smart watches in time for Christmas this year. Around three-quarters (73.6%) will not have the gadgets on sale, suggesting they will continue as add-on sales for smart phone retailers and electrical stores in the short term.

However, today’s watch retailers are more open-minded about the future. Exactly one third of respondents to our survey said that they do expect to start selling smart watches next year. Almost 39% don’t know, and fewer than 28% said they would not sell them next year.

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The survey went on to examine attitudes towards smart watches from the traditional watch retailing community by asking them to rate how strongly they agree or disagree with statements about smart watches.

Asked whether “smart watches will appeal only to technology lovers,” 44% either agreed, or strongly agreed. Another 22% neither agreed nor disagreed. The suggestion is that the retailers we surveyed believe smart watches will take time to gather momentum among mainstream watch buyers.

That view feeds into retailers’ view of how smart phones will affect their companies. Only 22% think smart watches are a ‘threat’ to their current business. Over 50% do not.

A similar 50% think smart watches present an ‘opportunity’ to their businesses. Only 11% do not.

There is a strong desire among watch retailers to stock the most hyped models. We asked which smart watches – if any – they would like to stock. 72.2% said they would like to stock the Apple Watch, 28% said they’d stock the Samsung Gear, and 22% went for the Moto 360.

“We are aware this is a quick and unscientific snapshot, and that 19 retailers is a small sample, but broad brush observations can be made,” says Rob Corder, director for Promedia Publishing, which owns WatchPro.

“The key conclusion I would draw is that the community of traditional watch retailers is taking a wait-and-see approach at this stage. My hunch is that many would like to move into this market as it matures, but they are unsure whether it will be dominated by mobile phone and other tech channels. If mainstream watch companies move into the tech space –and we know Swatch and Fossil are moving in this direction – then UK watch retailers will be ready to pounce.”

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