Online sales increased for Breitling and its retail partners during the covid quarter, but still only amount to 10-12% of total sales, according to CEO Georges Kern.
With stores closed across the world, the watchmaker ramped up support for its authorised dealers, so that they could promote and sell Breitling watches, even if they did not have the infrastructure to fulfill the orders.
“What we did throughout Covid-19 was that we engaged a lot with our retailers. With many of them, we do their fulfillment. So if they sell a watch and they don’t have the logistics centres, we have a system that we can now do the shipping for them. This allows more flexibility,” Mr Kern describes in an interview with aeworld magazine.
Mr Kern remains committed to brick and mortar stores — continuing to roll out monobrand stores directly owned by the business or, more often, created in partnership with authorised dealers like The Watches of Switzerland Group and Beaverbrooks.
“I still believe it’s very essential to have a 360 experience; to touch the watch, talk to someone about it, try it on your wrist etc. and that has to be physical. People are spending a lot more time now at our stores because of the atmosphere we have created. Which is great. I’m not sure that e-commerce can replace physical stores,” Mr Kern suggests.
Breitling is a privately-owned company that does not have to publish financial information, but Mr Kern hints that sales have bounced back since lock downs have eased around the world while competitors may not have fared so well.
“The market is still there. There will always be clients, [but] I believe we will see consolidation and concentration on fewer brands. The winning brands will be the ones who are embracing the new values. Some others will go through a very tough time. But the market is there, people will continue to buy, we already see it. People are travelling less so there is more disposable income, they still want to catch up with their purchases and that is the difference between us and some other industries,” Mr Kern says.