The British watch industry is clinging onto positive growth figures as we enter the final weeks of 2018, a remarkable achievement given the heady heights of 2017 to which this year’s results are compared.
The total value of watch sales in Great Britain grew just 0.5% in November, with the year-to-date from January to November growth maintained at 2.8%.
However, without the luxury end of the market — defined as watches selling for over £1000 — the value of sales would be significantly down as totals at every price point have fallen. Watches priced at under £100 were down almost 20% in November and 13 % YTD; the £100 to £500 price point is off by 19.5% in November and 15% YTD; £500 to £1000 dropped by 12.9% in November and 9.1% YTD.
Only the market for watches priced at over £1000 has grown this year, by 14.4% in November, an uptick from growth of 10.5% YTD.
The difference between growth rates in London and the rest of Great Britain has narrowed in 2018. London has grown by 5% YTD while the rest of the country has grown by 3%.
The shift in British appetite towards more expensive watches, coupled with increasing levels of overseas visitors buying top end timepieces in this country, has transformed the market in five years.
In 2013, watches priced at over £1000 accounted for 49% of the total GB market, according to retail analyst GfK. This year, luxury watches will account for 71% of the value of all sales and are all but certain to exceed £1 billion in 2018 (up from £964 million in 2017, according to GfK).
Over the same period, the value of watches sold priced at under £500 has dropped from 46% of the total market, to just 25%.
It was once assumed that sales of cheaper watches were simply migrating online, but this year’s data calls that into question. The total volume of watches sold at all price points over the first 11 months of the year was down by 13%. Online sales at all price points are down 4% for the year to date.
GfK says it is seeing growth from smartwatches and other wearables, which is likely to be a more substantial cause for the relentless fall in sales for less expensive watches over the past few years.