State-of-the-art smartwatches from the likes of Apple and Samsung have decimated the market for inexpensive quartz fashion watches over the past five years.
But one British company is fighting back against the technology behemoths with a range of smartwatches pitched directly at retailers and customers that used to buy a new Michael Kors, Hugo Boss or Kate Spade analogue fashion watch every year or two.
Peers Hardy was turning over £35 million at its peak in 2016 as a distributor for Daniel Wellington in the UK and a range of analogue fashion watches made under license from the likes of Radley, Orla Kiely and Jigsaw.
It also worked with distributors all over the world for its own fashion watch brand, Henry London, after a high profile launch at Baselworld.
As tech giants siphoned customers away, turnover for Peers Hardy dropped to £22.6 million in 2019 and £19.5 million in pandemic-affected 2020.
That was when the penny dropped, as they say in Britain, and the company pivoted out of quartz and into affordable and fashionable smartwatches.
The results have been dramatic, with turnover bouncing back to £27.2 million in 2021 and momentum this year encouraging Peers Hardy to reignite its global distributor network for a fresh range of fashion smartwatches.
The United States is top on its wish list, with distributors encouraged to get in touch with sales and marketing director Paul Harry.
“We are not competing with the tech companies,” Mr Harry explains. “These are watches aimed at the same customers and retailers that used to buy quartz fashion watches.”
There are five fashion smartwatch brands in the Peers Hardy portfolio — Tikkers, Reflex Active, Amelia Austin, Radley and Harry Lime — with prices ranging from the equivalent of $30 for fitness bands to $130 for full-featured smartwatches.
Unlike the proliferation of unbranded smartwatches flooding the market from China, which are even cheaper, Peers Hardy is creating fashion brands around the timepieces and making them attractive to younger customers with patterned and colored straps, decorated dials and crystal embellished bezels.
“It’s a bit of bling for the office or the gym,” Mr Harry jokes.
H. Samuel, a Signet Jewelers retail chain in the UK, is a major stockist, but the watches fly out fastest from mail order, travel retail, department stores and etailers.
Macy’s, Target, Amazon and Walmart would be natural targets for the collections.