It will take a few more weeks for many people to overcome the fear of leaving their homes and venturing out into the world to enjoy visiting non-essential shops.
Four months of one-sided media coverage has flipped the brain’s fight or flight instinct into a near fixed state of terror that will take time and a dramatic change in tone from the government and the press to unwind, WatchPro‘s editor Rob Corder writes.
The picture is mixed across the United States, but the majority of retail is now open and, as we report today, sales have rebounded in May according to the US Census Bureau.
In England, non-essential retailers were allowed to open for the first time since March 23 this week. The news could not come soon enough, since April store sales had dropped by 97% for watch retailers, according to retail analyst GfK.
I have been working from home just outside London since the day retailers closed and, having followed the ruinous lock down rules throughout, I was not going to miss the opportunity to get back out to shops on the day they reopened and thought I would record a quick tour of the key Central London retail areas of Oxford Street, Regent Street and Knightsbridge; the equivalent of 5th Avenue, Madison and Rodeo Drive.
The experience, as I hope the video shows, is concerning from a business perspective, because the watch shops I visit were seeing very few customers on their first day back, but deeply reassuring because every store felt safe, well-organized and — importantly — just as pleasurable as always to spend time in.
Remarkably, I even found some brand new watches that were launched during lock down and have found their way into stores already.
Trying on a 2020 Breitling Chronomat and discovering Oris’s limited edition Holstein Diver 65 in bronze on the day it was unveiled were particular highlights.
There is nothing new from Rolex, but that did not prevent the brand attracting more customers than any other on the tour of London. I found customers strapping into Rolex watches in Watches of Switzerland’s largest store in the UK, Selfridges, Harrods, Europe’s biggest Rolex store, run by Bucherer, and the WOSG-run Rolex boutique on Bond Street.
The key conclusion is that shopping for watches feels safe for customer and staff, and the security measures in place do not spoil the look and feel of the stores or the fun of sitting down with consultants to try stuff on.
My experience was that the train was safe, the subway was fine, walking the streets was entirely comfortable and the shops and their staff are just as enjoyable as ever.
Next stops for WatchPro’s retail tour? New York, LA, Miami and Las Vegas.