It’s renowned as the place to go to when you need a heel replaced or a tin of boot polish, but British retail institution Timpson Group says the day is “rapidly approaching” when watch repairs generate more turnover than shoe repairs.
The company, which currently operates 1,900 stores but expects to smash the 2,000 mark this year, has offered watch maintenance services for the past 20 years but it’s perhaps more widely known for its shoe repair, key cutting and dry cleaning businesses.
Accounts published this week show that it recorded a £12.8m operating profit on sales of £260m for the year to 30 September 2017 as it profited from a store diversification strategy that has seen it launch concessions and retail pods alongside British supermarkets. It now runs more outlets out of town than on the high street.
Timpson has invested in its watch servicing capabilities over the years and chairman, John Timpson, said the business is poised to become an even larger revenue generator in future years.
“In our core Timpson branches the day is rapidly approaching when our annual watch repair turnover will overtake shoe repairs,” he revealed.
Mr Timpson noted that watch repairs still lag “well behind” its key cutting business, but overall the company considers it a more stable and predictable part of its business than shoe repairs as it is not impacted by changing fashions or the weather.
Its current turnover from watch repairs is not clear, but Timpson’s latest accounts do reference the fact that key cutting and watch repairs together make up around 48% of its total turnover.
Based on the latest available numbers, that’s the equivalent of £125m a year, although key cutting likely generates the vast majority of this figure.
Timpson was the first company to introduce a life-time guarantee on watch batteries, meaning that customers pay once and are then entitled to a free battery replacement thereafter as long as they own the watch.
Its stores also offer replacements for straps and watches glasses as well as bracelet adjustment and link removal.
For more complicated jobs, Timpson uses a state-of-the-art central workshop, which is accredited by many major brands to carry out repairs. It typically uses the facility to support work that can’t necessarily be done in store, such as resealing divers’ watches, making and fitting shaped watch glasses and refurbishing complicated quartz or mechanical wrist-watches.
Additionally, the central workshop stocks a comprehensive stock of spares to fit many of the modern and vintage timepieces it receives every day.
It currently offers a seven-day turnaround on battery and pressure tests, 21 days for quartz services and 35 days for mechanical services.