1. There’s a general consensus that the market will remain flat, or contract, during 2016; this is largely due to unstable stock markets and an overall lack of consumer confidence. Affecting factors include the election in the USA, and the fact that a lot of department stores are changing their business model with the arrival of e-commerce challengers. I would also add that turmoil in the Chinese market is causing a slowdown in China and Asia in general, and impacting the demand for luxury products, including watchmaking.
2. Gucci Timepieces, like all watch companies, is operating within an unstable market, but we are fine tuning our strategy and focus accordingly. In terms of our network, we are concentrating on our existing distribution network, with a focus on China/USA/UK and on scaling up our commercial efforts by strengthening our customer relations. We are exploring possible openings in the US, Europe and in the Travel Retail sector, with the objective of increasing our productivity per door,and expanding our number of Shop-In-Shops. We are remaining fresh and in touch with our customers through a great new communication strategy that showcases our new brand ambassador, Florence Welch, a British singer, and we’re leveraging new digital communication channels, notably through the social networks of our watch and jewelry partners and a dynamic e-commerce expansion. We will also capitalise on our jewellery business – a category that is currently less affected than the watch industry.
3. No, I don’t think there are any signs of cannibalisation between the digital and the mechanical market: if you look at the launch of the Apple watch in April 2015, for example, it did not harm our sales in the USA. On the contrary, our sell-out has increased, so I don’t believe any negative effects have been recorded yet.
4. Definitely – Baselworld is probably the most important event of the year. Also, the show helps the whole industry – it’s a significant date for every watch company. Commercially speaking, orders are no longer necessarily solely made at Baselworld – they can take place at any other time during the year – but media-wise, it’s certainly a key event.
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?