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CORDER’S COLUMN: Breitling’s balancing act

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Rob Corder, managing editor, WatchPro and managing director of Promedia. (Photo by Ausra Osipaviciute/ITP Images)

The UK is already Breitling’s second biggest market in the world, the watchmaker’s chief executive George’s Kern has revealed.

That is before it opens the biggest Breitling showroom in Europe on London’s Regent Street this weekend.

And it is continuing to trade from its sizeable Bond Street boutique as well.

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Mr Kern clearly likes his watches to be sold from fully branded Breitling stores, which is why he has doubled-down in the West End.

However, I doubt Breitling will open any more monobrand stores on its own in the UK.

It doesn’t need to because major multiples including The Watches of Switzerland Group, Beaverbrooks and Signet Jewelers are doing the spade work for them by opening franchised boutiques in the bachelor pad (loft apartment) style that is currently in favour.

The brand is nicely positioned from a retail network point of view right now, although around 120 points of sale in the UK may be a few too many.

I would expect that number to come down because partners prepared to invest in Breitling boutiques will want confidence that the brand is not over-distributed.

Gavin Murphy and his team have done an outstanding job of maintaining a balance between working with this country’s best independents and multiples while increasing direct to consumer sales through the London store and online.

But that balance must be carefully maintained, not thrown off by a need to make the new Regent’s Street showroom and headquarters pay for itself.

Mr Murphy knows that Breitling’s success in this country has been a team effort with the best retail partners doing most of the heavy lifting over many years.

They should be rewarded for that loyalty with a fair allocation of the most desirable watches, and not see prize pieces kept only for the West End boutiques.

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