Swiss watch exports to the UK were down by over one third in March as wholesalers and retailers braced for the approaching Coronarus pandemic sweeping across the world.
The official lock down instruction was issued on March 23, but by then China had been grappling with the outbreak for two months and it was already spiking in Italy and other parts of Europe.
Year-on-year monthly growth rates had already been in negative territory since November 2019, but analysts explained that was due to the unprecedented bull run the UK has enjoyed since 2016 coming to an end, and was not seen as a sign of weakening demand.
Several luxury watch retailers told WatchPro early this year that they were enjoying record sales for January, February and early March as a decisive general election victory by Boris Johnson’s Conservatives raised expectations for an end to the Brexit mess and a period of stable government.
That ended in the final week of March and now, with all stores across the UK closed, retail sales have hit a wall.
Although the UK figures appear weak in the first quarter of 2020, it is worth noting that Swiss watch exports to this country are 17.5% higher than the same quarter in 2018. March 2019 was the month when the UK was officially due to leave the European Union, potentially without a deal, so there was massive stockpiling that month.
The question now is what does Q2 look like?