American brands like Chase-Durer, Fossil, Timex and others are selling strongly in the US. Not many customers make watch decisions based on whether the brand is from the US or not. Most consumers don't care, they are shopping on price or features, or they understand that the technology comes from overseas anyway.
That being said, consumers do look for Swiss Made as a seal of quality. As products continue to be diluted with parts that aren't Swiss, the danger is that Swiss Made will cease to have any meaning at the consumer level. The watch industry has to do its utmost to ensure that Swiss Made continues to have true meaning during the manufacture of the timepiece and at the retail level. This safeguards the future of the Swiss watch industry, while at the same time protecting the end consumer.
“Swiss Made is the provenance, it's the key,” says Stanislas de Quercize, President and CEO, Cartier North America. “I think customers are going to challenge brands to be genuine. When people realize that some Swiss watches are not what they claim to be, they will start to question every brand.”
Swiss Made should be a badge of pride. “For us to be able to produce a product that we believe will be an important watch, it needs to be something that comes from the culture we embrace,” explains Girard-Perregaux's Jackson. “It's a Swiss mentality and a Swiss culture where things are developed in an environment where there is a great deal of respect for the traditions of Swiss watchmaking, and for producing a product that is true to what it presents itself to be. For customers, Swiss Made means quality in the design, functionality, precision and accuracy of the movement and the integrity of the customer service and the desire to take care of that product after it has been sold and is part of the person's collection.”
“We have the incredible benefit of having Swiss in our name, and Swiss resonates with people from quality, technical innovation, functionality,” says Sue Rechner, President, Victorinox Swiss Army Brands, Inc. “It will continue to be important to emphasize Swiss. There is an aura to Swiss watches that will never disappear. We are going to continue to emphasize the quality of Swiss products.”
The top brands in the US
The top brands in the US are Rolex, Omega, TAG Heuer, Movado, Citizen, Seiko, Cartier, etc. The real problem in the US is that there is national accounting because there are so many small companies that don't have to and refuse to report sales figures or anything else.
Estimates have put the total value of the US watch market at between one and two billion dollars. “I wouldn't doubt that number,” says Block from Tourneau. “In my world, our sales are about 80% Swiss.”
Having said that, LGI Network has developed a broad-based panel of retailers that provides model-level sales transaction data in approximately 3,100 U.S retail outlets including the biggest chains, prominent department stores, leading independent jewellers and smaller neighbourhood jewellers. LGI Network’s Time Tracker™ service provides accurate, comprehensive retail activity data on fine watch sales based on over 2 million sales and inventory records processed in Time Tracker annually. This represents over US$ 1 billion in watch merchandise.
The report, which covers watches retailing for at least US$ 150, includes the essential data manufacturers need to track how they performed this past year, which opportunities they missed, and what merchandising and industry trends they need to know to position themselves for a profitable 2005. It is now possible to be in a position to better understand the market and customize activities to take advantage of market changes.
The Watch groups in America
The large groups are having a good year and most are looking to capitalize on their success by leveraging more space at the retail level and even establishing boutiques and shop in shops. “Business is very good - with the dollar where it is, Americans are staying in America and Europeans and Japanese are coming to America,” Swatch Group US's Gamard says. “Our strategy is to go for more boutiques. We opened up a new Blancpain boutique on Madison in New York, we are opening an Omega boutique on Rodeo Drive in LA in the summer of 2005. We only want 5 – 10% of our sales to come from sales in our own stores. We want our customers and retailers to understand the depth and the atmosphere of our brands. With the opening of the Breguet boutique, which is the number one point of sale for Breguet in the world, our business with Breguet has been increasing in other retailers. Tourneau has 30 Breguet watches, so in case they don't have something, they can send customers to the boutique to see the watch.”
In addition to boutiques, many of the big groups, and even the larger independents, are pushing shop in shops, securing prime retail space in the best retailers.
“LVMH has been enjoying great success - it's been a record year for all the brands and the brands are up in significant double digits,” says Daniel Lalonde, President and CEO, LVMH Watch and Jewelry North America. “We've made historic highs for the brands in our portfolio. The consumer is more interested in luxury watches than ever, although we still have a long way to go. Only 5% of the US population wears a luxury watch, so the sky is the limit. Our retailers are experiencing a pretty good year in general.
”Shop in shops are a big part of our trade marketing strategy, because we have recognized that our sell through has a 60 – 80% increase in the retailer post shop in shop,“Lalonde continues.”When you pick the right stores and get the best real estate, we see a big spike in sell through. For the consumers it presents the brand in a big way."
TO BE CONTINUED...
In the forthcoming days, the rest of this lenghty survey will be added to our europastar website.
1. The state of the U.S economy, Distribution
2. American brands, The top brands in the U.S., The watch groups in America
3. Watch wardrobing, High-tech, The Internet, Counterfeiting and the grey market
Involving the customer
4. Case study: TAG Heuer
5. The bridal market
6. Case study: Kobold Watch Company, Watch trends and colour, Unique designs, The Future
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