Booming online luxury goods sales convert watchmakers to the web
Reuters - Mar 26th 2018, 10:20
A boom in online luxury goods sales is finally convincing high-end watchmakers, long sceptical that customers would pay thousands to buy timepieces on the web, to step up investments in e-commerce.
Courting younger shoppers, brands large and small are joining an online push sweeping the luxury goods world, where web sales are already big growth drivers for fashion labels.
"We didn’t realise the speed at which millennials would take to buying cars or watches online," said Jean-Claude Biver, head of LVMH’s watch business.
LVMH’s Tag Heuer aims to expand its own shopping sites over the next 18 months, Biver said. Tag already operates online stores in five countries and has a partnership in China with JD.com.
LVMH sister brands Hublot and Zenith are yet to follow suit.
Many watchmakers have flirted with web sales, though often through one-off collaborations with multi-brand web retailers. Tech-savvy shoppers in Asia have partly inspired a drive to do more — China overtook the US in 2017 as the leading source of traffic to luxury watch websites, according to consultancy DLG.
And watchmakers have reasons to take control of their online image, as websites run by unofficial resellers proliferate.
"We want to reassure people while taking into account that today clients also might like to buy their watch at home in the evening while they drink a glass of wine," said Jerome Biard, CE of Corum.
The Swiss brand’s first e-commerce site will be fully operational in about two months, Biard said.
Web sales are expected to make up a quarter of all global luxury goods sales by 2025, up from about 9% in 2017, consultancy Bain & Company projects.
There are notable resisters. Chanel shuns e-commerce for its coveted clothing, quilted handbags or watches.
Watchmaker Rolex is not known to have any plans to build its own online shop.
But others are stumping up serious cash, betting on online growth. Richemont, owner of Cartier and Baume & Mercier, is offering up to €2.8bn for full control of multibrand site Yoox Net-a-Porter.
"There is no taboo with buying online anymore," said Anish Bhatt, a watch enthusiast with 1.7-million Instagram followers who works with brands on social media campaigns.
Independent Swiss watchmaker Oris, Breitling, and RJ, formerly known as Romain Jerome, plan to expand online operations.Reuters
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