Introduction by Tirath Kamdar, General Manager Luxury at eBay.
What a year we have all lived through. The first quarterly volume of this special report from eBay and WatchPro on pre-owned and luxury watch auctions and marketplaces was created back in October when the warm months of summer had the covid pandemic in retreat.
Well into 2021, we now know that whatever changes we made to our lives and business plans last year will continue for some time to come.
Thankfully, it’s not all bad news. As this volume describes, the closure of physical retail stores for much of last year drove a dramatic acceleration towards ecommerce and digital engagement for huge parts of our ecosystem, ranging from manufacturing and distribution through to customer acquisition, marketing and retail.
The luxury watch industry has resisted digitization more than almost every other consumer goods sector, but 2020 will forever be the pivotal moment when the shopper took the wheel. And, since these customers have been working and shopping from home more than at any time in history, brands and retailers have been forced to adapt to reach them there.
eBay is a marketplace and auction platform that has connected buyers and sellers since it was founded in 1995. It is global but also local, with individual sellers and SMBs creating the backbone of eBay, and the marketplace consistently offering shoppers access to breadth and depth of inventory found nowhere else.
Luxury brands across fashion, jewelry, watches, handbags and more have been slow to use digital platforms to sell, and they have limited the options their authorized dealers have for working with third parties.
On the heels of such an unprecedented year that impacted every corner of human life, I anticipate that pragmatism will continue edge out the doctrine that insisted customers have to come in-person to immersive boutiques on Rodeo Drive, Place Vendome or Bond Street to be able to access luxury goods.
Auctioneers have been particularly successful at adapting to a world where digital means have augmented or replaced entirely the usual sale room deals.
We are delighted that venerable institutions like Sotheby’s, Christies and Bonhams have grown their online sales throughout 2020. That brings even more legitimacy to the online auction world for high value collectibles.
People that get comfortable buying one $10,000 watch online are likely to build on that confidence, even if they do still love the experience of shopping in a hallowed Patek Philippe or Audemars Piguet boutique.
Every sectors’ journey from physical to digital selling has been unique, but there is no category that has swung back to being dominated by store sales once ecommerce reaches critical mass. 2020 has taken the luxury watch market a long way towards that tipping point, and it will not be going back.
GM of Luxury, eBay, Inc.