Not only has covid-19 affected different worldwide locations in various ways, those different places and Governments have handled the virus implementing a variety of opposing measures and restrictions.
In doing so, manufacturers and brands from around the world have had to adapt and think of new ways to sell watches. Taking each market for what it is was, Maurice Lacroix’s way of tapping into their audience in those markets been a recipe which has so far proven a success.
The brand, which is active globally, says it had a better year that it was foreseeing when the virus struck in March. Putting this success down to battling on and continuing with product launches and business activity, Stephane Waser is proud in reflection looking back on what the business has done over the past 10 months.
On what worked well, he says: “Probably the Aikon. We have built this up for around five years now and it has really picked up. People have really bought into it. We have sold many Aikons this year and we are happy about that.
“In general, the product, positioning and particularly price positioning has helped us a lot. We have seen a lot of downtrading. On the retail side, we have seen a big popularity online. This is not necessarily just on our website, but if you look at the retailers and the multiples in the UK, US, Asia and Europe, they have sold a lot online.”
Discussing retail more widely, he continues: “We were surprized with how much Signet sold, even when they were in lockdown. The multiples were doing 50-60% of their sales compared to last year, only online. That really helped a lot and I think that has a lot to do with our price point. If we were at a 10,000 CHF price point we would have not been as successful. Moreover, Maurice Lacroix immediately believed in e-commerce. The fact that we have been online for several years has also played in favor of our brand.”
Adding: “At the beginning of the lock downs people were scared in not knowing what the future was but then came a flurry of guarantees in the summer which really helped us.
“You could not travel, you could not go on holiday and so on. Those that do have disposable income could buy online. I find it interesting that the trend in luxury was going towards experience before covid but now, you cannot have that experience and do have to buy online.”
The Swiss-based watchmaker is owned by DKSH, a CHF 12bn conglomerate with interests ranging from pharmaceuticals to precision healthcare technology; not a bad place to be during the current Coronavirus crisis.
After a solid 2019, the brand was on track for another successful year when the industry hit a well in March. When the pandemic did hit, those in the market who were positioned to tap into e-commerce and online sales, generally fared a lot better.
For Maurice Lacroix, not only did managing geo-specific markets count, but the two to three years it spent pivoting to the millennial market counted for a lot, and some.
Having a customer-base of tech-savvy enthusiasts who were happy to spend online became an important attribute for the watchmakers around the world and paid dividends for Maurice Lacroix’s work in the recent years gone by.
Waser comments: “Having repositioned the brand four years ago more towards millennials, we had to be much younger, fresher and present on social media. We had to be more digital savvy and focused on e-commerce sales.
“The mind-set of the company also had to change. Funnily enough, a few years ago we started home office and at the time everybody was looking at us and asking – are you crazy? They thought people would not be working and so on, we thought this was the right decision at the time and now, we are where we are. What happened in March meant that nothing therefore changed – everyone was already equipped to work from home for two days a week so that just scaled up to doing it full time.
“We knew how to have meetings, manage time and look after product stuff. This helped us a lot because going into this, it was no change. Whereas if you look at competitors, they were having to sort out things like IT while we were still focused on running the business side of things and looking at product launches and wider strategy.”
Speaking more on the way in which tapping into that tech-savvy market is key, Waser explained how not only is it important from an audience point of view, but also when it comes to business activity and digital selling.
He continues: “The thing which was particularly interesting going into this what that although we were already just about there, you start to learn a few more things. We have now positioned ourselves in working in an even more digital way and are training our sales staff in digital selling because you don’t know what the future will be.
“For example the first lockdown was ok, people were staying home and that was fine. With the second lockdown, we said no. We must sell. We did a lot of things with regards to training, did more work with the media in creating shows and getting more information out there.”
As a means of doing just that and growing sales, Waser believes that business activity throughout any lockdowns and restrictions is vital for awareness and visibility. In doing so, and keeping that new millennial market in mind, Maurice Lacroix is also currently working to improve on-site facilities.
The brand is building a small studio to do recordings in order to allow the audience to not only be entertained with content, but also see what the brand can offer while doing so.
Waser adds: “Not only do they want to be entertained, our sales staff can be as good at selling online as offline, so that is an approach we want to build on and continue to make work as time progresses.”
In anticipation of 2021, the brand will highlight new models in the AIKON, Pontos and Eliros collections in order to be able to offer a greater diversity to customers.
Discussing the quartz and mechanical portfolio, WatchPro discovers that the Aikon does just over 50% of Maurice Lacroix’s sales and of that 50%, a third of that is the quartz edition.
On this, Waser reflects: “This is nice because it is a bit different and is young and sporty from a material point of view where the mechanical product is a little more elegant and a bit more luxurious and it fits well.”
Besides that, and because the Aikon does have such a strong foothold, he goes on to confirm that reviving the Pontos with this in mind will mean that people buying into Maurice Lacroix but are not into the Aikon, can tap into the Pontos.
In wrapping up the insights, Waser also went on to reveal that after solid years in 2018 and 2019, the company grew away from the tradition of focusing on one large event per year when it comes to product releases.
He concludes: “We realized that not having 70-80% of our business in Q4 was a good thing and managing a steady flow across a twelve month period was better for us and the business in general.”
Having gained market share in 2020 and with the big events that usually allow the watchmaking giants to outmuscle some of the others not coming back until what looks like 2022, Maurice Lacroix and Stephen Waser can only be ready to make 2021 a success too.