President Trump’s ongoing trade negotiations with China are having a direct impact on one of Los Angeles County’s biggest watch retailers, Hing Wa Lee, which specializes in serving resident and visiting Chinese customers.
Thankfully, the market for the prestige timepieces he sells from Rolex, Audemars Piguet and Richard Mille is so hot right now, that any impact on his customers from rising tariffs and the surrounding uncertainty, is offset by the desirability of his watches.
Our clients are 95% from Asia, mostly China. The factory owners in China that are now producing products to export to America are having a tough time. Their customers here are not buying because the 25% tariffs added on are making those goods impossible to sell. Everybody is holding up and waiting to see whether Trump is able to negotiate a deal that is acceptable to everybody. Those people are thinking twice about making big purchases,” Hing Wa Lee chief executive David Lee tells WatchPro in our Big Interview for November.
Hing Wa Lee has two prestige watch superstores in Los Angeles County, East of Downtown LA: a 15,000 square foot showroom in San Gabriel and a 22,000 square foot space 20 miles to the East in Walnut.
The stores are large enough to accommodate busloads of Chinese tourists that arrive to shop in tour groups, shopping alongside Chinese residents.
Mr Lee says that, in general, his domestic customers are not changing their shopping behavior because they are squeezed for cash, but sentiment has been affected by the current uncertainty.
“The local Chinese do not consider most of the watches we sell — certainly at prices under $30,000 — as expensive so they can keep buying. For us, we are facing the issue that we cannot get enough product to fulfill the demand, especially Rolex, which is what we sell the most. But Richard Mille and Audemars Piguet; it is all the same issue,” he describes.