As a reading of this issue’s Time.Business substantial “Brick & Click” dossier will reveal, watch retail is truly in the doldrums – or, more accurately, in total disarray.
It finds itself not at a turn in the road, but at a crossroads of a hundred and one different routes. Should it take the traditional highway, lined with solid brick-and-mortar buildings, some of which, despite being brand new, are now falling into disrepair like ancient mausoleums? Or should it leave the physical world behind, metamorphose into electronic impulses and speed from click to click across the immense and limitless skein of the internet, hoping to catch something in its nets? Or should it take one of the narrower paths that wind through the long grass, follow the wind, become a nomad, open pop-up stores and invent new ways of doing business?
The crossroads of indecision is peopled with hordes of people beset by doubts, unable to make up their minds. This way, or that? But the right answer to this question is not binary. The answer is more likely to be an “and” rather than an “or”. The solution is to choose a physical road, and at the same time to explore the virtual sphere.
In short, we need brick and click, as one of our correspondents succinctly puts it (read our interview with US consultant Steven Kaiser). The watch is a material object, and an object of desire, that needs to be touched, felt and tried on the wrist. And we need brick-and-mortar locations in order for this to happen, as well as to be able to compare this one with that one. When it comes to actually buying the watch, that’s where the clicks come in. You can’t have one without the other. Any retailer who refuses to countenance both these options is doomed. Operators who confine themselves to a virtual showroom will find that many potential clients vanish into thin air.
Nevertheless, for the time being, the brick-and-click landscape is something of a jungle. Yes, we are at a crossroads of indecision. New rules will have to be created, and the brands that come out on top will be those who understand that, while they can’t survive without bricks, they also need to be very active with their clicks. Physical retailers, whose bricks provide the venues for the material experience, play an essential role as influencers, advisors, guides and... after-sales service points! (We will be devoting a future dossier to this “blind spot” for the watch industry.) Abandoning the bricks would be suicide.
We could say the same about our own role as a publisher. Instead of bricks and mortar, we have paper. But we also have the clicks. We are convinced that, without a parallel virtual presence, paper – a long-term medium
– cannot survive. But without paper, online journalism – like a tap that is never turned off, forever emptying into the drain of oblivion – is condemned to an ephemeral and transitory existence. Yes, we need breaking news – it ensures we remain relevant – but we also, if we aspire to longevity, need reflection, analysis and perspective.
And for this reason, paper – or brick – remains the best vehicle for weathering any storm.
Since the beginning of the year we have revolutionised our paper edition, to increase our reach and promote our mission as an enduring place of reflection and analysis, serving the international watch industry. We have been present on the internet for more than 20 years (welcoming almost a million unique visitors each month). This autumn we launch completely redesigned sites in French, www.europastar.ch, as well as in English, Chinese and Spanish.