Market Focus UK: Distribution

December 2004

Wholly owned distributors
Chopard set up its own distribution company in London in February 1999. Managing Director Chris Proffitt, along with one sales representative, runs accounts with some 50 stores around the country, with its own flagship store in New Bond Street. He comments: “Our best line is definitely Happy Sport – it brings in about 30% of our turnover.” Chopard involves itself closely with the Elton John Aids Foundation (with his renowned white tie and tiara evenings) and with the Prince’s Trust (Prince of Wales wristwatches are available only in London), both of which raise huge amounts of money each year.
Breitling has a high profile in the UK. Under the energetic leadership of Count Franz La Rosee, it advertises widely and promotes effectively. Its association with aviation is well established, and constantly confirmed by the Red Arrows formation flying team as it roars across our skies at all major aviation events. Breitling employs three full-time representatives to cover 180 accounts. And its number one seller at present, you askı The Chronomat Evolution. The Breitling for Bentley brand enjoys separate distribution arrangements in the UK; stock availability is its wonderful problem.
Michel Herbelin has its own distribution company in Essex, and it is owned and run by Peter Gauntlett and his family for the equestrian-minded Herbelin family. It is an arrangement that has worked very well for eleven years. The whole Gauntlett family provides a key factor in this relationship – its own after-sales and repair workshops. With four sales representatives, the Gauntletts have also handled the Fortis brand for about four years. The Fortis B-42 does well for this admirable independent enterprise; the main selling point is a sound one: it is the world’s first automatic chronograph alarm.
Rhône Products Ltd is a wholly owned subsidiary of Patek Philippe and is run in Gerrards Cross, Buckinghamshire, by CEO Mark Hearn. It has always been his policy to stay very close to the major accounts among his 35 or so points of sale. The repair workshop on the premises greatly assists his highly successful operation. He reports: “The Twenty-4 has been one of the most successful models in the long history of Patek Philippe, and has been a major contributor to the fact that about 40% of our turnover here is derived from ladies’ watches.” From time to time, Mark Hearn takes his major customers out to Geneva to see for themselves Patek Philippe’s very impressive manufacture.

Independent distributors
Time Products Luxury Ltd was founded in 1931 by the father of its present Chairman, renowned distributor (and raconteur of unprintable and very funny stories) Marcus Margulies. Though his father came from Poland, he sourced his first imported watches from Russia, and went on to found the Sekonda brand. He also owns the Limit brand, which sells about 650,000 pieces annually, but Sekonda is the big boy, in volume terms, in his portfolio of exclusive distributorships. Sekonda wristwatches annually sell around 1.8 million units, through about 2,500 points of sale. And that is just in the UK.
Marcus Margulies (he of the Bond Street store of that name) also distributes Alain Silberstein, Audemars Piguet, Franck Muller, Girard-Perregaux, Harry Winston, Richard Mille, and Vacheron Constantin.
Adrian McGilvry is an old hand in the watch industry, and so Frédérique Constant was fortunate to select his company, Ferndale UK Ltd, for its UK representation. The brand is building up rapidly. UK-related imaginative points of sale are established, for example, on British Airways, Virgin, terminals 2, 3 and 4 at Heathrow, and on the liners Queen Mary 2 and Queen Elizabeth 2. And consumer advertising is about to break in publications such as GQ Magazine. Frédérique Constant’s Classic Slimline and Automatic lines do well for Ferndale, at their very competitive retail prices. The Heart Beat series addresses the growing UK market for less expensive mechanical wristwatches. Ferndale also distributes Fontenay.
It is shown elsewhere in this Focus report that Zeon is one of the largest distributors of wristwatches in the UK. It specialises in character timepieces, and is presently handling no less than 19 of them, through an extensive representation system. Managing Director Richard Tibber is a watch man through and through!
Fast-expanding US-based Fossil distributes leading fashion brands in the UK; they include Emporio Armani (constantly highlighted as our most successful watch brand), DKNY, Burberry, Fossil, Philippe Starck and Diesel. Fossil also has plans to go up-market with its mechanical Zodiac brand.
There are, of course, other smaller watch distributors throughout the UK, but they are too numerous to examine individually. One typical example is Argento, run by Giuseppe Ferro and his wife Claudia Ferreira. They handle jewellery and also the prestigious Parmigiani Fleurier. They service five outlets and have the greatest success in this country with the Forma Automatic model, which retails in steel at £4,700.

In the forthcoming days, the rest of this lenghty survey will be added to our europastar website.

1. A bullish market, but challenges remain!
2. The market place
3. Retail Trade
4. Distribution
5. International luxury goods groups

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