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Jun
2015

Watches & Jewellery February 2014

Since the strict implementation of anti-corruption regulations by the Chinese government in 2012, the high-end Swiss watch industry has suffered more significantly than others. However, due to the watch market sales model in China, domestic dealers and distributors were not able to react quickly enough to declining sales, and continued to hold large stocks. As a result, sales data provided by the brands, did not demonstrate an obvious decline. However in late 2013, due to their inability to move inventory, many dealers reduced their stock purchases, and in some cases holding no stock of certain items. Swiss watch imports therefore declined for the first time in Mainland China by approximately 12.2%.

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Having interviewed several watch retail staff during 2013 particularly in the second half of the year, we confirmed that sales of high-end Swiss brands offering entry level products’ priced at 50,000 RMB and above i.e. mid price point items decreased more than 25%. Whereas sales of some of the top watch brands selling items ten times or more of this price declined by only 10%. Sales of low end imported Swiss watches in the range of 10,000 RMB to 20,000 RMB stayed stable, driven by individuals buying for themselves rather than others.

The demand from China’s middle class consumers for middle or high-end watches remains strong and the wealthy will still want to buy the top luxury watches in the Mainland. This is why watches priced between 50,000 and 150,000 RMB that are most suitable for gifting have been hit the hardest, they sit in ‘no mans land’ between the middle class at one end and the very wealthy at the other. In essence luxury brands have no reason to blame the consumers for declining sales in China, the market has just returned to a normal and healthy state.

Of course, it cannot be ignored that in 2013, more and more Chinese people began to enjoy outbound tourism, and due to the significant price gap between luxury watch prices in China and those internationally, more consumers are starting to purchase overseas, a further factor that has caused the mainland market to decline.

To alleviate the problem and revive watch sales in China and to attract consumers, dealers from Shanghai, Beijing, Guangzhou and other cities offered 20% discounts and in some cases 25% during the Christmas and CNY holidays. During previous years during these two big traditional sales seasons the general discounts were between 5% to 10%, so this year retailers proved more aggressive.

It’s not just been dealers that have been discounting, brands themselves have also begun to take action to increase sales. LVMH’s watch brand Hublot has implemented a strategy offering the same retail price in Mainland China as it does in Hong Kong as of February 1st this year, hoping to access the purchasing power of Mainland consumers who are not able to travel abroad regularly.

Store opening and brand activities

Year of the horse watches from Chopard and Piaget

Chopard and Piaget both introduced their limited edition Chinese Zodiac products for the year of the horse. Which will be favoured by Chinese consumers, the Piaget Altiplano Chinese Horse special edition, or the Chopard L.U.C XP 2014 Horse edition? Only time will tell.

Qeelin

On 16th January, Chinese luxury jewellery brand Qeelin opened its first store in southwest China located in the central business district of Chengdu, in the IFS shopping center.

Glashütte Original

On January 10th, Germany’s top watch brand Glashütte Original held a party themed ‘Bloom • Spirit of life’, that paid tribute to modern femininity and began to promote its female watches within the Chinese market.


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