Piero Braga, Gucci Timepieces president and CEO, says he is baffled by the reluctance of luxury watchmakers to sell direct to consumer online.
In a wide-ranging conversation with WatchPro that will be published in May, the Gucci executive says that the watch industry is lagging well behind the high end fashion sector that broke down barriers to ecommerce years ago.
“Gucci approached ecommerce very early with our fashion and today our ecommerce site is our biggest store in the world, so we are totally in favor,” Mr Braga states.
“We started breaking down all the resistance years ago in fashion. Honestly, I still do not understand why the watch industry continues to resist. Many categories have proved ecommerce works, including some examples in the watch industry. Watches are a very saleable category online,” he adds.
Gucci has successfully built up a network of retail partners — it has around 700 doors in the United States — despite selling direct consumers via Gucci.com.
At its typical price point of around $700 to $1200, Gucci insists that ecommerce is essential to the type of customers that buy its watches and failure to deliver the right shopping experience to these customers would be ridiculous.
“You are battling against something that is bigger than you. Consumers want to go in that direction. They already are, so it is just a question of time. For me, it is stupid not to learn and exploit a channel that today is part of our everyday life. Ecommerce is everywhere from high volume commodities selling on Amazon to high end luxury selling through the likes of Net-A-Porter, Matches Fashion and Farfetch,” Mr Braga says.
It is incomprehensible to Mr Braga that so many Swiss watch brands continue to sell purely through authorised dealers. In fact, he sees it as a failed and failing model.
“Ecommerce is already happening in the watch industry, it is simply not controlled. So the brands are surrendering margins and they are surrendering control to experts in pre-owned and parallel sales,” he says.
“Ecommerce is a way of respecting consumers. The most valuable thing they have is time, so shopping online saves them time and gives them a great experience, particularly on nicely curated sites like Net-A-Porter. It is great for the consumer,” he concludes.