In its report for the first half of 2019, Swatch Group said that political turbulence in Hong Kong had resulted in a double-digit decline in sales.
That report came just a few months into the protests, which began in March with a sit-in and peaceful marches.
Swatch Group has not reported on the second half of the year, by which time the movement had escalated into violence and even two deaths during clashes raging through universities and the major business and retail districts of the island.
Richemont provided a more up-to-date report on the state of affairs in its 3rd quarter report on the three months to December 31, 2019, in which it said it had seen “a severe sales contraction in Hong Kong”, where it had temporarily closed stores.
Neither Swatch Group nor Richemont provided any firm figures on how hard their luxury watch brands were hit by the Hong Kong protests, but one man who will have a better insight than many is Patek Philippe president Thierry Stern, who believes some brands have seen sales decimated during the troubles.
We are down maybe 30% [in Hong Kong],” he admits in an interview with the New York Times.
“Some brands are down 70 or 80 percent. That’s a disaster. But that’s their mistake. They were focusing too much on Hong Kong,” he adds.
That interview was in early December, before the current Coronavirus health scare that is preventing many Chinese customers from traveling to Hong Kong, their favorite destination for luxury goods shopping.
One of the consequences of the Coronavirus situation is that protests have subsided, but the luxury watch industry may have jumped out of the frying pan and into a fire.