The Timex Group has an interesting mix of watches from fashion brands like Versace and Salvatore Ferragamo. Paolo Marai, President & CEO of Timex Group Swiss Luxury Division has worked on their visibility for specific markets, and the group is all geared up to spread its wings further. Karishma Karer finds out more in an interesting conversation.
How was 2017 for Versace and Ferragamo watches?
The global market was a bit negative during the first half of the year and then it started to recover. It is only in the last two months of the year that we got some positive signs globally, in terms of the market. For the company, the first semester was quite positive and then it stabilized in the second part of the year. I believe that somehow when you talk about the luxury sector and luxury fashion brands, there is a kind of inverted cycle. When the market goes down, traditional watches go down more than the fashion watches and then when the market goes up, traditional watches grow faster than fashion watches. Coming to specific areas, performance in Dubai was not very satisfactory. 2017 was good for India, although it is not yet at a level we would expect the market to be. We have been pushing on India, as compared to China. Firstly, in India, there is a consumer for luxury. For example, people buy gold. Then, there are many stores selling luxury products. In China, you have to have your own mono-brand stores which could be expensive. I was pushing hard on India which was quite successful in the beginning.
We have had quite a few upheavals in the Indian market with demonetization and the implementation of GST. What impact did it have on the market and on the company?
As with all big changes, there is an initial impact on the market. Even before the impact is felt, people are already talking about the impact. The changes come, and these days more frequently…but people get used to it. It is important to align with the market.
What are your views on e-commerce?
I still believe than online is a global activity. It is not to be used only for sales, but in a variety of ways. It allows you to tell the customers your story. In a store, it is difficult for the story that I know to go down to the customer in the same way. Secondly, it allows you to give much more detailed information. It can give precise details. You can present a global collection online as well. Coming to sales, it is different. Now, online, I wouldn’t want to be a competition to my own retailers! Till today, if you look at statistics, there is a fair amount of data which says that more than 75% of consumers, even though they research online, want to buy offline. This is because going to the shop gives them a different experience as opposed to the internet. They feel that local stores will also give them service. Online is a fantastic tool to build something quickly.
What are your views on connected watches?
Connected watches are something special. We were amongst the first to come out with connected watches. But then, we were also amongst the first to stop talking about the smart watches! Why is that? First of all, we have access to a lot of research. But the initial smartwatches all had the same mistakes. They were products that were not ready, in the sense they were not responding to consumer needs. When the product is not perfect, it gets lost, as you create the need but not the product. Why was that so in this case? Firstly, most watches people wear are analog and smartwatches are digital. Secondly, smartwatches need to be charged very often. If one travels, it’s too much! The mobile phone screen is becoming bigger and bigger and this is going to be more convenient. Sometimes, smartwatches have information and notifications that people don’t really want. The watch has to be a nice watch.
What trends do you perceive this year?
I see for sure that one trend is emerging very clearly- going back to your own DNA. For me, this has always been a part of what I do. I see it becoming a trend now! Consumers also want certain kinds of materials like rose gold.
What is the way forward?
The market is dramatically changing in India, in a positive sense. There is a cultural evolution and an evolution in wealth as well. The younger generation has much more access to money. There is a natural attraction for certain brands. We keep all this in mind as we offer our products here! We have very aggressive plans for this year. We are introducing writing instruments for the Indian market this year. We have a wide price range.
The current times are challenging for the watch market, not only in India but also worldwide. Yet, there is a lot of scope for growth in the future, and the group is all set for it!