By Priti Kay, co-founder, Watch Hub
Independent high street jewellers selling watches have faced major challenges over recent years and whilst independents have struggled, the national jewellery chains have grown.
The picture online however, has been very different as entrepreneurial independents have led the way, especially in the mid market range between £100 and £500.
Watches are both an essential item and a luxury buy. They can be trendy and fashionable as well as fulfilling their fundamental role of making sure we get to our next appointment on time.
There will always be a market for watches and it has been growing. The online watch market has seen a massive increase in sales, especially for the mid-market range and watches are now a key market in their own right, rather than just an add-on to the jewellery trade.
[But] This may be about to change as a new challenge is about face all online watch retailers which may hit the independents harder than the nationals.
The internet has been a game changer for independents. It has allowed independents to compete nationally against their bigger more powerful competition and they have thrived by offering designer brands at discount prices.
This is where the problem arises. The watch brands that dominate the watch market have, in most cases, spent many years and small fortunes carefully creating and crafting their brand. They associate discounts with a brand that is not in demand and understandably, this is not how the brands want to be viewed.
Robin Kamal, a former solicitor and co-founder of Watch Hub says the big watch brands have been backed into a corner.
European anti-competition rules are already preventing distributors and wholesalers from setting or influencing prices or discounts, so brands are forced to protect their brand image in other ways such as ensuring the shops and websites who stock their products maintain strict minimum standards.
The new standards are being enforced by the introduction of new contracts which the brands are enforcing strictly.
If independent watch retailers focus on prices at the expense of standards they are going to fall foul of the brands strict new minimum requirements and these standards are going to get tougher to meet. The net effect could be that the big brands walk away from the independents who fail to take this on board.
Independent online watch retailers are more likely to put themselves at more risk because of their need to gain market share. At Watch Hub we are taking a more creative approach to the rising challenge.
[While] price is an important factor it is not the only one. At Watch Hub, as well as continually working on raising the standard of our store and website we are also trying to create an online community using social media.
We want to create a family, based on trust and a service that people can actively engage with and talk to. By offering higher standards and more dynamic and rich service, I believe our consumer and our suppliers will be satisfied.
Priti Kay and Robin Kamal are the co-owners of Watch Hub online store, part of Paul Kay Jewellers.