GfK is a big deal. With more than 12,000 employees in 110 countries the German-owned international data company spans industries as diverse as FMCG, automotive, fashion, public services and technology. All that muscle could make it seem pretty intimidating so it is a good job that in the UK, its watch arm is headed up by the friendly Jonathan Hedges.
Five years ago he was tasked with launching GfK’s Watch Panel as the company looked to expand into new areas. “We knew little about the industry but I have always been interested in watches so I was more than happy to take on the challenge,” the cricket-obsessed executive remembers.
The company’s mission was – and remains – to find out what consumers are buying, where and why. Jonathan takes the responsibility seriously. “If we get the data wrong then this could impact on what decisions people make so there is a high degree of pressure on what we deliver. Retailers use our data to analyse new brand opportunities and the brands use the data to gain increased opportunities with the retailers so we are part of the process that brings brands to the market, which in turn will hopefully drive new sales and growth.”
Well placed to monitor the industry, Jonathan summarises the current landscape: “The luxury end of the market has been the biggest growth sector over the past two years with particular growth encountered in London, which has coincided with high level of visitors coming in from China in particular. There has also been growth from certain fashion brands but not all, showing the up and down nature of this sector of the market.”
And there are a few surprises. “I had to look twice at the data when we got a watch that sold for £900,000. Even for a watch fan this still seems like a huge amount of money to be spent on one timepiece.”
And this year, Jonathan’s own highlight came when many of his retail clients had their contracts coming up to renewal.
“Whilst we were confident in what the data provides to them and their business and that we have serviced them to a high level, discussing a contract renewal in these tough economic times was not going to be straightforward. However, we had great success in renewing most of these contracts and this really helped validate the work we had done with the data, insight and servicing over the past two to three years. This also secured the longer term future of the GfK Watch Panel.”
And that is good news for us all because it means we get to keep Jonathan in the industry for at least a little bit longer.
GfK global product manager for watches and jewellery Jonathan Hedges was an Innovator in the WatchPro Hot 100 2013 in association with The Company of Master Jewellers. To read a digital version of the book in full online, click here.