Dismal January for Switzerland as watch exports slump 8%

January’s rarely a bumper month for shiny new luxury purchases,  but the opening month of 2016 has been worse than usual when it comes to orders for Swiss watches.

Monthly export figures from the Federation of the Swiss Watch Industry (FH) reveal that January exports of Swiss wristwatches were down 8.1 percent on the previous year, with a total value of CHF 1.43bn (£1bn).

In total 1.9m units were shipped around the globe throughout January, which was 300,000 or 13.8 percent fewer than the year before.

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The dismal figures were driven by prolonged slumps in the orders being placed by retailers in the top three global markets; namely Hong Kong (down 33.1%), the US (down 13.7%) and China (down 1.9%).

The figures for Hong Kong (now recording its 12th successive month of plunging orders that has wiped CHF 1bn off of order books) and China can be explained by the downturn of the Chinese economy, but a fifth consecutive month of falling imports to the US, a market which was seen as having huge potential as recently as last year, is less easy to account for.

The next three largest markets did their level best to stem the flow of Swiss export blood, each posting impressive increases in imports. Japan ordered 35.8% more Swiss watches in January (worth a total of £70m) with Germany and the UK posting increases of 7.9% and 10.3% respectively.

As well as the uncertain future of the Chinese economy and the slump in oil prices which are effecting the global financial markets, a huge global glut of inventory is being identified by many camps as one of the reasons for a slump in new orders.

Brands will need to focus far more on sell-through than sell-in throughout 2016 to halt the decline in Swiss exports.

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