WatchPro caught up with Simon Walker, UK country manager of Hirsch Watch Bracelets, to find out more about the company and see how it’s been performing this year.
WP: For those in the trade that are unfamiliar with Hirsch, how long have you been trading for and what is it that you do?
Walker: Based in Austria and still family owned, Hirsch has specialised in the manufacture of high quality watch straps in leather and other materials for over 70 years. We produce straps for both retailers and the luxury watch industry in over 60 countries throughout the world, and have over 1,200 retail stockists in the UK alone.
WP: What changes have you noticed in the industry in the last few years? How has Hirsch adapted to these changes?
Walker: One of the most noticeable changes almost unique to the UK has been the growth of a watch repair and service sector independent of traditional jewellers, too many of whom have sadly neglected the ‘service’ side of their business and overlooked the incredible potential that batteries and straps offer in both driving footfall and reinforcing customer loyalty. Our retail distribution has increasingly reflected that trend and we do find that the staff in the service centres are often much more confident, enthusiastic and knowledgeable when selling higher priced or complex models. We’ve also seen a growing demand for genuine alligator and crocodile straps on the back of the pre-owned watch business, which we are well placed to support.
WP: How has the company performed in 2015? What have been the highlights and what have been the biggest challenges?
Walker: We have had nine years of continuous growth in the UK and I’m pleased to say that 2015 has continued that trend. One of the highlights was the success of our new, award winning, Performance Collection: using a new and unique manufacturing process that combines the finest leathers with other high tech materials to produce exceptionally hard wearing and incredibly comfortable watch straps that enhance the watch they are fitted to. I suppose one of the biggest challenges has been the number of long-established jewellers that have closed down this year as their owners retire without a successor to keep the business going.
WP: Looking ahead to 2016, what can the UK watch trade expect from Hirsch?
Walker: 2016 will be a year of evolution rather than revolution – one of the most attractive aspects of the ‘service’ business for retailers is that it will reliably and consistently deliver highly profitable footfall year after year if done right, unlike the roller coaster ride that characterises the fashion watch and branded jewellery sectors. Working so closely with watch manufacturers means that we can anticipate style and size trends well in advance and adapt our assortment accordingly. Baselworld will see further range extensions to meet upcoming needs and several exciting new presentation and display projects are well advanced.