The news that total UK watch sales for May 2013 were up by 9.13% compared to May 2012, according to retail analyst GfK, is one of the latest indicators that the UK watch market is gaining in strength.
Although pundits and statisticians remain cautious with their optimism while economic turbulence still casts a lingering shadow, the signs suggest that the UK watch market is in good health. Further validation of the buoyancy of the market was provided last month with the news that the inaugural London Watch Show had sold out of exhibition space.
The 44 stands that will be at the Freemasons’ Hall on July 2 and 3 have now been snapped up by a range of British and international exhibitors, including Maurice Lacroix (pictured on p9), demonstrating the diversity of watch brands available to retailers in the UK and the opportunity that they see to increase sales.
The exhibitors vary considerably in their offer, ranging from quartz to mechanical, from high cost to more affordable and independent newcomers to well established and recognised names.
It is the mix of brands and watchmakers at the show that has seen pre-registration figures for the event exceed 750 with retailers attending confirming that they are keen to meet with brands who they would not normally spend time with at international shows such as BaselWorld.
“We would like the London Watch Show to offer us a unique overview of everything that the industry has to offer globally, all in one place, from all the major fashion watches to Swiss brands,” said Kyron Keogh, managing director of Rox.
He added: “The deliberate timing of the show, following BaselWorld, allows UK retailers who have not been able to attend these shows to meet with watch companies to see new collections for the first time. For those who have visited BaselWorld, it will be the chance to network and refresh their memories before making buying decisions for the year ahead.”
The importance of watches to UK retailers is no doubt encouraging attendance. “Watches account for 65% of our watch and jewellery business,” said Alexander Rose, managing director at Beards Jewellers. “The shift from jewellery has been progressive over the years despite reductions in margin. Watch brands placing more importance and emphasis upon marketing in particular has played a crucial role in growth for us as it reassures clients as to where they spend their money.”
As well as independent retailers recognising the significance of their watch sales, the registrations for the show suggest there will also be a strong turnout of representatives from multiples including Beaverbrooks, Fraser Hart, H Samuel and Ernest Jones.
The lifeblood of watches to UK retail businesses is also being noted by brands attending the show. Daniel Ozel of Unique Jewelry, UK distributor of watch brand Festina, commented: “The UK watch market is steady, in particular compared to jewellery it is still growing. We expect to see small, but steady growth and see a lot of potential in the UK watch market especially for new brands. Compared to continental Europe there are a lot less brands in the market place, which gives potential for growth and increasing market shares.”
While non-British brands are using the opportunity the London Watch Show provides to break into the UK market, a number of exciting Brit brands are also looking forward to meeting retailers.
Du Maurier Watches, which produces watches with quintessentially English design and Swiss-made movements, will be one of those relative young brands looking to reach a wider retail audience. Co-founder Ned du Maurier Browning said: “Consumers are demanding more and more from their brands and English watch designers are right up there leading the way. The UK market is ever expanding and is more than strong enough to make an even bigger statement in the watch world. A UK show can only serve to strengthen this position.”
It’s a position also being supported by the media. As well as registrations from trade press members, more than 75 consumer journalists have signed up to visit the show, recognising the appetite for watches among their readers.
The London Watch Show will be a barometer for the condition of the UK watch industry and, as the event approaches, the signs are looking positive.
“If the London Watch Show tells us one thing, it is that the UK watch industry is in rude health,” said Daniel Malins, commercial manager for WatchPro and event director for London Watch Show.
“In light of the economic doom and gloom of the last few years, it is a testament to the bloody-minded work ethic of brands, as well as the enduring affection towards timepieces that a first-time, unprecedented trade show for watches can sell out in its first year.”
To register for the London Watch Show, visit: londonwatchshow.com/