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CORDER’S COLUMN: Post-covid continuity

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Rob Corder, managing editor, WatchPro and managing director of Promedia. (Photo by Ausra Osipaviciute/ITP Images)

Many of the lessons we have been forced to learn in 2020 can, I hope, be quickly forgotten once life returns to a new kind of normal, hopefully by Easter next year.

Zoom calls and product launches via webinars can be consigned to the scrapheap because, in my opinion, this industry is all about amazing relationships between people that can only be maintained, at best, over the internet. We need to meet and mix to forge new friendships, foster fresh ideas and grow partnerships to their greatest potential.

Moreover, watches need to be seen, touched and tried on before any sensible verdict can be reached on them.

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The fact that authorised dealers and, ultimately, customers bought watches launched online this year should not lull any brands into thinking that the savings they secured by not appearing at massive shows like Baselworld or Watches and Wonders can be safely banked for years to come.

The watch industry has to generate excitement for expensive items that nobody needs

Brands should budget next year for physical events, be they B2B trade shows in regional markets, consumer-facing shows, social gatherings with retail partners or old-school press conferences.

It has always been my view that retail partners should be the top priority in this planning because, without their expertise, enthusiasm, local contacts and loyalty, around 90% of watches would never be bought.

If this sounds like I just want the clock turned back to a time before covid, you would be half right. So much has changed this year, but the fundamentals remain the same. The watch industry still has to generate excitement for expensive items that nobody needs.

If consumers stop tingling at the thought of what Audemars Piguet, Omega, TAG Heuer, Seiko, Citizen or Cartier are launching, they will spend their money on cars, boats, shoes, holidays and meals out instead. These are competitors for disposable income that will not stop shouting about their latest and greatest offers.

Ecommerce

Ecommerce has grown dramatically this year, albeit from a low base for the luxury watch industry, and I do not expect the percentage of sales online verses in stores to drop next year. Nor do I expect it to continue rising, because consumers search for and compare products online once their desire has been piqued in the real world.

That is not to say digital marketing does not work. It absolutely does, and the watch industry is beginning to appreciate and master the highly targeted campaigns they can run across social media, search engines and trusted editorially-driven websites.

But as almost every retailer I have spoken to this year has told me, the three Ps of being in the best place with great people and outstanding product endure.

Following every lock down, customers have snapped up appointments with their favoured boutiques because they want the full experience of sitting with experts in a luxurious environment to talk about their passion for timepieces and walk out with a piece that they love, that fits perfectly and is backed by a warranty with a business they trust.

See you in the New Year. 2021 is going to be a blast.

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