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Watch brands will cut all but the most exceptional retail partners says Audemars Piguet CEO

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Francois-Henry Bennahmias.

Audemars Piguet chief executive François-Henry Bennahmias says that watch brands will cut retail partners out of their future plans unless they can prove their value.

“Retailers are going to have to be extremely good at what they do because, if not, the brands will take over,” he tells Robin Swithinbank in a report on the watches and jewelry industry for Business of Fashion.

Audemars Piguet is taking its own advice. Today, 70% of sales are direct to consumer, compared to 20% a decade ago.

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The independently owned watchmaker has eight AP Houses around the world. Its first in the United States will be in New York, as WatchPro reported in March, and Mr Bennahmias promises there are more to come.

AP may have a somewhat selective view of the overall watch market; concentrating its firepower for the 40,000 watches it makes per year at prime central locations in the world’s most prosperous cities.

There are 17 Audemars Piguet points of sale in the United States, most are now monobrands run as franchises by the likes of Westime, Watches of Switzerland and London Jewelers.

One thing Mr Bennahmias is right about is that multibrand retailers need to be exceptional to thrive, which thankfully so many are in this country.

“There is just not enough margin for them to survive with the cost of rents, people and so on. They have to be brilliant at clienteling, create beautiful stores, manage their inventories. Some of the independents are going to need to double their jewelry business where the margins are higher if they are to survive,” he asserts.

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