1. 2016 will certainly be a most difficult year for the watchmaking industry overall. But, here at Bulgari, we’re prepared in that we were aware of the trend beginning to reveal itself to various companies within the industry before summer 2015. This is not a new phenomenon for us, and Bulgari is equipped to continue with its commitments. That said, watchmaking/ luxury-goods markets are cyclical industries and history demonstrates this, with peaks and troughs on average every 5 to 7 years. Today the reasons for this are multiple, between the new political policies of the Chinese Government encouraging increased purchasing within the home market and stricter customs controls, global geopolitical uncertainties, an unstable economic environment and the increase in unemployment, etc. All of this has contributed to a braking effect on the very strong growth observed over the last 3 years in the luxury goods market. However, it’s worth remembering that watch industry exports in 2015 were 28% higher than in 2010, which allowed us to redress things a little! Here at Bulgari, we have achieved exceptional results for the year 2015, a tendency which can only take a small downwards turn in 2016 and there are various reasons. I would remind you that contrary to many other brands which specialise exclusively in watchmaking, this company consists of several “limbs”: watchmaking, jewellery, fashion accessories, hotels and perfumes. Our spread of activities provides us with the means to resist business downturns much better than single product companies. Furthermore, our distribution channels provide us with a supplementary fire-wall, between directly controlled boutiques and wholesale. Finally, and not the weakest argument, our range of watch products is extremely broad. To sum up, the doors opening into the Bulgari universe are highly numerous.
2. Our principal objectives remain sacrosanct: continue to win over the market share of our principal rivals, as we did in 2014 and 2015! The key to achieving this highly realistic objective firstly relies upon the development of product mix/ prices in harmony with market trends and the customer base, which are not always the same. Our creativity is our major strength. Imagine that we launch, only in relation to watches, more than 100 different products each year and in all price ranges! Regarding the market place, I would say that we are active on a global scale. Bulgari is a global brand present across the world, even though variations can obviously exist. At this stage for Bulgari, it’s more about carrying out fine-tuning in the markets where we already exist than opening new and totally unexplored virgin markets. Nevertheless, some of these still offer development potential for us, such as India for example. Our distribution network, that I mentioned earlier, is well balanced, between boutiques (300) and multi-brand partnerships (620). That said, we will continue to open boutiques when and where necessary, such as we’re about to do in Moscow for example. And on another but parallel agenda, that of our hotels, we’re accelerating the rhythm with several projects underway: Dubai, mainland China, and others in the future.
3. Mechanical “traditional” watches will not disappear, that’s a known fact. The hybridisation that you allude to sets mechanical watches against watches that are said to be “connected” plus other “smartwatches”. I believe that we’re talking about 2 completely different markets, particularly in the over 5,000 CHF price range. We’re therefore talking about 2 completely different client types. Smart-watches concern very specific population groups both in age-group and interests, in relation to their functions: sporting types, the mobile phone generation, etc. I see this high-tech market sector as a “plus” overall, an addition to what already exists within the watchmaking industry. In addition, it isn’t really a watch but a functional wrist gadget, whereas the mechanical watch, although having lost some of its purely functional values has gained others over time, these being centered on emotion, pleasure and hedonism. Smart-watches are by consequence a means of growth, which doesn’t mean however that, mechanical watches are at a standstill, much to the contrary!
4. For us, Baselworld represents an indispensible platform. Without a shadow of a doubt our presence there is crucial, since it clearly allows us to develop our business, and offers Bulgari an unrivalled opportunity to develop communications and desirability over the space of a few days.
EUROPA STAR’S FOUR QUESTIONS
1. What are your predictions for 2016? Do you think that exports will recover, or will the markets stagnate or continue to decline after the slump we saw in 2015? And what do you think were the reasons for the downturn in 2015?
2. What are your priorities for the coming year: consolidating your existing markets, actively exploring new markets (if so, which), rationalising / consolidating / expanding your distribution network, launching new products, PR initiatives, etc.?
3. Over the longer term, do you believe that mechanical watchmaking will gradually die out, hybridise, or continue to occupy its own exclusive niche? Do you see the advent of smartwatches as a potential threat, or an opportunity for growth and diversification?
4. What exactly do you hope to achieve from your participation in Baselworld 2016? Do you feel your presence at the fair is essential to your business, or are such forums less important now than they were in the past?