Michael Witt Johansen believes Bering can only succeed by working in harmony with hundreds of retail partners across the United States this year and helping their sell-through with creative marketing and merchandising — efforts that helped the brand become a top three retailer in the eyes of German retailers in 2018. How will it work in North America this year? WatchPro spoke to Bering’s co-founder to find out.
WatchPro: What changes have you made in your global marketing strategy in the last nine years?
Michael Witt Johansen: Obviously online marketing is much more dominant, than when we started nine years ago. We have our own department doing nothing but online marketing and we are really proud to see all the positive feedback we get on e.g. Instagram, Facebook. This year again, we will invest significantly more in online marketing; it is a great tool to promote our brand in the 50 plus countries in which we are represented.
On the other hand, we have also had a huge success with sending out flyers before Christmas. In Germany, for instance, we sent out about 10 million flyers in magazines and newspapers, which brought a lot of traffic to the stores — many of the independent retailers had increased sales due to the flyer. We will continuously try to mix our approach between online and offline. There are still many end users out there who we can reach with traditional marketing tools such as flyers. Wherever the Bering design concept is seen, we receive a high level of feedback due to the beautiful design and the great price/quality ratio.
WatchPro: What challenges does the traditional high street jeweller face nowadays? How does Bering work with its retailers to help master those challenges?
Michael Witt Johansen: Rising online sales are of course a challenge for anybody who does not participate. But the offline market is still huge and a lot bigger in comparison. So, the challenge and the focus remains the same — make your store as attractive and interesting as possible. Shoppers want inspiration and fun, and, of course, a high level of service. Bering has just been defined as the 3rd best watch brand in Germany in a big survey of independent German retailers and obviously we are very proud of this.
One of the reasons for this is that we have set up many beautiful shop-in-shops with our top retailers and have made the their stores look even better and more attractive. The Bering furniture concept is very bright and pure and the stores are illuminated in a beautiful way. The combination of Bering furnishings and the great merchandising of our design watches in addition to cross-merchandising with our beautiful jewelry, makes the Bering concept unique.
WatchPro: What is unique about the product and service that Bering offers to retailers/consumers?
Michael Witt Johansen: As mentioned earlier, we offer a variety of services to assure a successful partnership with the retailers – intensive marketing on and off line, great furniture and POS Material. What has been really successful is customized marketing with local retailers, billboards etc. We are always open to suggestions – our graphics department is fast and very good at what they do. We always make a GWP every year, an old school thing – but it works if the GWP is right. Our yearly polar bear charity campaign incuding limited watches and jewelry also creates a lot of attention and attracts people to the stores.
WatchPro: How important is it for Bering to stick with its original Scandinavian design? Should the brand be looking to follow new trends?
Michael Witt Johansen: It is very important to stick to our Danish DNA, this is who we are. Our design and our clear look has made us one of the fastest growing watch & jewelry design companies in the world. Clean, minimalistic design is the dominant design direction world wide. If you look at Apple, Samsung etc—their design is very pure and clean. Within our DNA of sleek timeless design, one of our strengths is that we have been first movers on quite a few trend colors, like ocean blue and now ice blue and a beautiful red – so we observe trends and in the watch industry we are pioneers.
We have also managed to be innovative and have introduced, for instance, smart technology to our watch program while still retaining our clean design DNA – smart technology to us is solar movements. At Bering, solar is selling very well worldwide and here we have also created styles in beautiful colors like ocean blue, rose/black and soon a fantastic red color – it is solar, but it looks just as sleek and great as the other design watches by Bering.
Bering is also known for its ceramic styles. We were one of the first companies to launch the very successful ocean blue ceramic collection and we will keep on being innovative. There are many great styles coming this spring – not only in the Bering collection, but also in the Bering Max René collection.
The cooperation with the famous Danish designer Max Rene has been a big point for us; the exclusive design is selling really well all around the world and we will expand the concept with some new unique watches.
Talking about trends, the strength of our very successful rings and charms concept is that they can be very easily personalized – so with this concept our end consumer can follow a trend, a mood and their personal style and change the ring within seconds.
WatchPro: Which market is the biggest for Bering, in terms of sales?
Michael Witt Johansen: The US is of course very important, with a huge potential. We have just hired a new sales manager in the USA, Amanda Bitetto, who is in charge of department stores / major accounts. Amanda has a lot of experience and a great track record, so I am very happy that she decided to join us. We are among the top performing brands in department stores around the world so there is no reason why we should not be doing the same in the USA. Also, with the independents, we have a firm belief that we can increase business significantly – we have the best collection ever; some of the new styles we have are game-changers and the brand is getting more and more well-known around the world.