Baselworld was buzzing with fledgling smartwatch companies and mainstream watch brands trumpeting the addition of smart features to traditional timepieces.
Meanwhile the technology world, particularly Samsung, Sony, Apple and LG, is bombarding customers with watches that speak to their smart phones.
But despite the hype, smartwatches have not yet broken through with traditional watch retailers according to an exclusive WatchPro survey with the UK’s leading independents and multiples.
From *78 retailers contacted this week, only 11.1% currently sell pieces that they would categorise as smartwatches. The figure is virtually unchanged from September last year when we asked exactly the same question.
WatchPro then asked retailers to predict whether they expect to be selling smart watches in the lead up to Christmas this year. In September last year only 20% thought they would, but this has almost doubled to 37.5% today.
2016 has become the year that retailers expect smartwatches to go mainstream, with 78% of retailers predicting they would be selling them next year.
Attitudes towards the challenges and opportunities presented by smartwatches have remained largely unchanged in the six months since WatchPro last conducted its survey. In September 2014, we asked: How strongly do you agree or disagree with the following statement: ‘I see smart watches as a threat to my current business’.
Only 16% ‘agreed’ or ‘strongly agreed’ with the statement in September last year. That has increased to 22% today.
The majority of retailers, both last year and this, believe smartwatches are an opportunity rather than a threat. In September 2014, 72% of respondents said they agree or strongly agree that smartwatches are an opportunity to their businesses. This has dropped to 50% today, suggesting there is a drop in optimism that traditional watch retailers will benefit if smartwatches take off.
Apple Watch was the brand that most retailers wanted to sell when we asked them last year. This is still the case today, but its popularity has slumped from 80% of retailers last year saying they wanted to sell Apple Watch to 44% today.
“The smartwatch sector has had so much hype in the past six months from both mainstream watchmakers and the technology giants, but it feels like we are in the phoney phase of the war,” suggests WatchPro managing director Rob Corder.
“Watch retailers are not yet reporting a major impact from smartwatches – either positive or negative – on their businesses, but almost everybody believes that the effect is about to hit at Christmas this year and even more so in 2016,” Corder concludes.
*WatchPro contacted 78 retailers on April 21, and received responses from 31. The sample included the heads of buying teams for major multiples and web stores, and the largest independent retailers across the UK.