Sales at fashion watch and jewellery distributor Peers Hardy (UK) Ltd dipped by over 11% last year to £31 million as the market for sub-£500 timepieces continued to contract.
Operating profit slumped by over 70% to £565,000 in the financial year ending December 31, 2017.
The business, which has its own watch brand with Henry London, licensed brands such as Radley and Jigsaw, and distribution-only brands including Cluse and Paul Hewitt.
“The UK business continues to be tough,” says Paul Harry, sales and marketing director at Peers Hardy. “The independent sector, as in all markets, continues to struggle against the big boys and on-line while the big boys are also struggling against the on-line behemoths and so all brick and mortar retailers are becoming more and more risk averse. Global players are desperately trying to get bigger through acquisition and merger and then develop strategic partnerships with the bigger retailers, making it more challenging for the local players,” he describes.
Peers Hardy sales have been remarkably stable over the past six years, hovering between £30 million and £35 million since 2012.
The business continuously adjusts its line up of brands, and focuses more on overseas sales when the UK is tough. This season will see the launch of licensed watches from under the Sara Miller London and Jigsaw brand names. It is also adding jewellery from Nilai Paris to its portfolio. It stopped distributing Daniel Wellington in 2016, and started distributing Cluse in 2017.
Mr Harry says the UK will remain subdued this year and into the near future, which is why Peers Hardy is pressing forward with international expansion.
“We don’t see the UK watch market increasing that dramatically anytime soon and so our strategy is to only sign global licences; 10 international markets doing just 10% of our domestic business would still double our business. Having just returned from the Hong Kong Watch Fair, we have golden opportunities across all our existing and new brands in the Far East, following on from a terrific response from the US and Canada in August,” Mr Harry suggests.