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Changing consumer behaviour could bring long term benefits, predicts Mondaine chairman

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Mondaine was fortunate to have held its international distributor meeting in January this year because Baselworld’s placement at the end of April was too late. That gave the business an early bump with its spring/summer collections but, like every watch brand on the planet, it was hit by the tsunami of Coronavirus as it washed from East to West across the world.

André Bernheim, co-owner and chairman of Mondaine Watch Group, which is also home to Luminox, says that the health and wellbeing of his team was his first priority, and fortunately nobody at Mondaine has yet been hospitalised with the virus.

“Luckily nobody has been hit so far,” he tells WatchPro’s German editor Antje Heepman. “We started to introduce measures that got stricter every day, then offered short-time work in the factory and in the HQ, as well as home office for those who are required to maintain day-to-day operations, accounting, internal sales, deliveries for e-shops and so on,” he adds.

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There was a tiny window of opportunity to plan for the virus rushing towards Mondaine’s headquarters in Pfäffikon, Switzerland. “It was foreseeable after we had seen the developments in Asia. The speed of the spread and the measures taken were enormous, time for great considerations and strategies was missing, you just had to act. Immediately,” Mr Bernheim describes.

Cash is king in a crisis, and Mr Bernheim admits one of the biggest challenges is to closely monitor liquidity. “This means postponing costs that are not absolutely necessary, including incoming goods. Other investments that are more of a short-term nature have been halted or cancelled, but we are continuing to pursue longer-term investments, such as new products for fall and 2021. There will be a time after Corona, and we want to be well positioned there,” he adds.

Now the concern is over retailers being willing and able to pay for collections that they ordered before the lock down and how quickly new sales will pick up.

“Because of the store closings, dealers have of course postponed open orders, some of them cancelled. We understand this but are confident that they will get our products from the various brands, especially Luminox and Mondaine, as soon as the worst is behind us and the shops can open again,” Mr Bernheim predicts.

“I hope that by June we will have reasonably normal conditions that the shops will be open again. If the population adheres to the measures, it could be a little earlier.”

Clearly a man who sees his glass half full, Mr Bernheim also sees some benefits to the way Coronavirus will affect consumer behaviour.

In particular, he believes many more will buy watches online, and this is an opportunity for retailers to broaden the portfolio of watches they sell.

“There are consumers who have not [shopped] online. But during that time there is almost nothing else to do. Ergo, this area is getting stronger. Traders will have to adjust to this if they have not already done so. Retailers have limited space, and finance but online they can offer a wider range. If the traders do not offer this, they will continue to lose,” he warns.

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Rob Corder

The author Rob Corder