Mainland China’s hard and targeted lock down has limited economic damage and led to it becoming the biggest export market in the world for Swiss watches in June.
Chinese citizens account for around half of global luxury watch purchases, but in normal years their spending would be benefiting retailers in travel hot spots, particularly Hong Kong, London, New York and Las Vegas.
Now, it appears, the brands are planning for Chinese people to shop in their home country.
Swiss manufacturers are clearly diverting what little stock they have managed to produce during the pandemic to China because, while the global value of exports fell year-on-year by 35.1% in June, exports to the People’s Republic rose by 47.7%.
Hong Kong, to which so many Chinese citizens used to travel for shopping until this year, was one of the hardest hit markets in the world in June with Swiss watch exports dropping by 54.6%.
Monthly exports worldwide are returning towards normal levels.
In April, at the height of the pandemic, global exports for Swiss watches slumped to just CHF 329 million, compared to 1.8 billion in April 2019.
May’s total was double April’s at CHF 654 million and by June the value was up to CHF 1.1 billion.
For the first six months of 2020, Swiss exports dropped by 45%, with only 5.5 million watches sold, and the Federation believes the full calendar year will see exports down by 30%.
The apparent willingness of Switzerland’s watchmakers to target stock at markets that are emerging fastest could hamper restocking in the United States, which is still grappling with a first wave of the pandemic in several states.
Exports to the US fell year-on-year by 57% in June to CHF 87.4 million. This contrasts with Germany, Europe’s most successful country for tackling the pandemic, which saw imports in June down by just 21% to CHF 78 million.
In any normal month, exports to the United States would be double those of Germany.