Changing shopping habits and consumer tastes are gathering pace across the British watch market, with demand for less expensive watches, even online, wilting.
The latest retail analysis from GfK shows the luxury end of the watch market remaining the only positive story for the month of July and the year-to-date with the value of sales for watches priced at more than £1000 up by 8% compared to the same month in 2017.
GfK does not permit WatchPro to publish figures for individual brands, but conversations in the past few months with retailers and brands suggest that even within the luxury segment, growth is concentrated into just a handful of watchmakers; Rolex, Patek Philippe and Audemars Piguet have been singled out by most executives since the start of the year.
Analysis at the volume end of the market is tougher. The value of sales for watches priced at under £500 is down more than 15% in July, compared to the same month in 2017.
This appears to be heavily affected by lower volumes of watches being sold through traditional channels. The ecommerce sites of major jewellers, department store chains and the likes of Amazon and Argos are no longer compensating for plunging demand on the high street.
However, there is anecdotal evidence that just as many people are wearing something on their wrists, with Apple Watch and fitness trackers the obvious products that are on the rise — sales of these devices are not included in the GfK watch market analysis provided to WatchPro.
There could also be watch sales that GfK is struggling to track from myriad smaller brands that sell direct to consumers via their own websites. These microbrands, often promoted via social media, are certainly on the rise, but are difficult to quantify.
Two of the biggest breakthrough brands of this type, Olivia Burton and MVMT (a similar business hailing from California) have recently been bought by Movado Group for around $100 million each.