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Rotary refines watch collections in conjunction with retail partners

Rotary Cambridge

Rotary’s recovery plan is yielding results thank to a laser-like focus on designing and manufacturing watches that sell-through fast for its retail partners at full prices.

In the sub-£500 watch market that has been declining by double digit percentages for the past 5 years, it is easier said than done turning sales around, and Rotary’s managing director Peter McKenna says that listening to what retailers want has been key.

“We listen to the buyers from our largest accounts and incorporate some of their ideas into the design process,” Mr McKenna tells WatchPro.

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One of the biggest challenges facing volume watch businesses like Rotary is the algorithm-driven discounting by major online retailers. Put simply, if Amazon’s systems see a particular watch sold elsewhere online, it will price-match or undercut it.

In response, Rotary does not supply current season watch collections to Amazon, so they cannot be discounted and make its other retail partners uncompetitive. The only current season watches on offer at Amazon will be from third party vendors.

In addition, key accounts are rewarded with exclusive lines of watches. These SKUs cannot be price-matched because they are not available elsewhere. H.Samuel and Watch Shop have seen sales rise as a result of this tactic by Rotary, which both the brand and retailers get behind with focused marketing and visual merchandising backed by training of in-store staff.

The key demand from retailers is maximum value for money, and Rotary has been improving here too. Fresh watches in the Heritage family, for example, have Japanese automatic movements and designs from the Rotary archive dating back to the 1940s but retail for only £249. One piece, inspired by Rotary’s work with the military during World War II comes in a titanium case, 200m water resistance and high grade luminosity treatments.

Rotary is also benefiting from being based in the UK, where it has the power to make its own decisions. One such decision is to make a watch for the Royal British Legion’s Poppy Appeal for a second year running.

This year’s version is gold plated and will be made in a limited edition run of 1000 pieces, with £13.25 donated to the Royal British Legion for every watch sold. It is selling into retail now and goes on sale to the public on October 1.

“We are delighted to continue our partnership with the Royal British Legion and are confident our donations will support their unstinting and valuable work for the services community” says Mr McKenna.

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Rob Corder

The author Rob Corder

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