They say fashion is fickle. Be that as it may, there doesn’t appear to be anything fickle about the unrelenting demand for fashion watches.
This might not necessarily come as a great revelation but fashion watches have maintained a high profile in jewellery stores for some time and one has to wonder whether the category has peaked.
As brands continue to enter the market, a cascade of new styles, innovative colour combinations and watch-face designs are sustaining consumer demand and fuelling repeat purchases.
In fact, far from softening, there seems to be no end in sight as to the number of wrist fashion statements Australian and New Zealand shoppers will make, and local suppliers and retailers are reporting robust sales.
“The demand for Guess watches over the past year has certainly been high, particularly with the introduction of the signature blue styles,” attests Belinda Towler, marketing executive for Guess Watches distributor Designa Accessories.
According to Towler, the brand’s trademark blue-tone ion plating has exceeded expectations in Australia and is quickly following suit in New Zealand: “It’s a unique and iconic colour linking with the brand’s denim heritage, which is why it works so well.”
It’s not surprising then to hear that the hue will continue to be a key look for Guess Watches in the coming months, with Towler explaining that the offering has been expanded to include ice-blue paired with gold tones – a colour combination “very much in line with fashion trends in the apparel market for winter 2015”.
She adds that pops of colour on watch dials are currently a huge trend for women and something retailers can capitalise on this season. “The introduction of three new colour ways in the ladies best-selling model, Sunrise, will be a key volume driver in the market. This clean-cut style has been reinvented for winter with signature python-patterned dials in ice blue, turquoise and coral.”
Speaking of colour, Ice-Watch – a brand renowned for its use of colourful hues – also appears to be ticking the right boxes
“Ice-Watch consumers have really loved our new collections that were launched in the second half of 2014, which has contributed to strong demand for the brand,” Larry Porter, chief executive for Ice-Watch local distributor Bolt International, says.
He explains that placing significant importance on product development and quality has been critical to the evolution of the brand, and has resulted in its slimline design – which was launched two years ago and refined over the past six months – becoming a larger share of the business.
In terms of the year ahead, Porter says the focus will be on simplicity, experimentation with new materials and, naturally, colour. He adds that key releases for the year will be launched at Baselworld, which had not taken place at the time of print.
Ken Abbott from Danish Design supplier Timesupply is another who believes colour plays an important role when it comes to selling more fashion watches.
“Colour always grabs attention, so use it whenever you can,” he urges when questioned how retailers can capitalise on new watch offerings. “Even if a customer is drawn to the colour and ends up purchasing a more conservative watch, the colour has still played an important part in the sale.”
Abbott explains that Danish Design timepieces released in the coming months will continue to embrace the “stylish, simple and functional” design principles that have become synonymous with the brand: “Some of our new models feature orange, red, blue and espresso colours alongside the more traditional steel, black PVD, gold and rose gold.”
While many fashion watch brands provide collections for men and women, most have an undeniable bias towards females; however, such a statement can’t be said about Police watches, which have a heavily male-orientated local offering.
Trent McKean, managing director of Police supplier Moda Group, believes Police consumers love standing out from the crowd.
“From a styling perspective, the Police customer generally demands a watch with a point of difference or uniqueness, something that will ‘stand out’, hence our growth in Police over the past year and previous years continues to be our larger case, multi-movement models such as the Python.”
McKean says key looks in the latest range include big, bold designs, thick leather straps with heavy stitching, multi-function movements and models with multi-tone plating.
If one needed further proof that the fashion watch category is still growing, Swedish brand Daniel Wellington undoubtedly presents a strong case.
Since launching just over three years ago, the business has reportedly sold more than one million watches internationally and has an annual turnover of €50 million (AU$70 m), and all by embracing a ‘preppy’ design aesthetic.
John Rose, managing director for the brand’s Australian and New Zealand distributor West End Collection, says local sales have trebled since 2013 with sales averaging over 5,000 pieces per month.
Rose credits much of the brand’s success to tapping into the fashion industry’s current zeitgeist.
“Watch design is aligning with fashion today more than we have ever seen before, with a common throwback to 1930s, 1940s and 1950s design. The preppy look is very on-trend.”
The line also uses an interchangeable strap concept, leveraging the current thirst for customisation. It’s a feature that Peter Lee, manager of Walker & Hall jewellery store in New Zealand, says has been integral to the collection’s popularity among his customers.
Diana Timmermans is another retailer who not only attests that demand for fashion watches continues to climb but also makes a point of explaining how interchangeable watchbands have contributed to customer loyalty and repeat sales for her New Zealand-based store, Rokoko.
“Customers are really embracing the opportunity to change their look through the swap of a watch strap, whether that be based on factors like the season or the wearer’s mood.”
Fashion is a cut-throat business and most suppliers agree that maintaining market share is one of the biggest issues facing this competitive watch sector. It’s a similar situation at retail level where almost every store is trying to capitalise on the fashion-oriented, accessory-driven environment.
So how can retailers maximise sales and ensure customers are left feeling confident they have made the right decision?
While price, brand alignment and being on-trend all rank high among factors influencing fashion watch consumers, many suppliers also highlight the increasing importance of embracing the digital age.
According to Towler, today’s fashion watch purchaser will be swayed by “trends popularised by celebrities through social outlets such as Instagram, Facebook, fashion blogs and entertainment sites”.
Supporting this statement is McKean who says, “Savvy retailers are communicating regularly with their customers through social media and direct marketing. These communication channels are perfect for retailers to promote and profit from model or brand newness.”
Antoinette Cross of Antoinette’s Showcase Jewellers in regional NSW is one jeweller that is connecting with her clientele in this way.
“We have a business Facebook page and Instagram profile that we often use as a way to promote the fashion watch brands that we carry,” she explains. “For example, the marketing department for a brand might send us images or files that can be downloaded onto our social media sites, or we may post a photo of a celebrity who is wearing that brand of watch – we’ll put on our Facebook page as worn by ‘XYZ’.”
McKean also advises jewellers to ensure they have a constant stock of “hero” models that are being advertised and promoted by a brand, given they are often the watches that are highly sought after at a given time.
Porter believes succeeding in this market requires a strong relationship between supplier and retailer: “One has to take a partnership approach with the brand and ensure there is commitment from both sides, for example, the retailer will receive strong support from the brand in terms of marketing, after sales, merchandising and branding, and from the brand’s perspective, the [retail] partner will commit to the brand in terms of ranging and space, enabling that brand to become an attraction for the store and for the store to be known as a destination for the brand.”
Other sound advice comes from Abbott, who says one of his top tips for selling more fashion watches comes down
“Generally we find fashion watches are an impulse buy. For best results, have a window display and another display inside the shop located where you can catch the eye of a customer,” he suggests. “Also, retailers should always restock bestsellers ASAP to keep the sales momentum.”
From a retailer perspective, Cross says the key to doing well in this sector largely lies in the mix of brands that a store carries – ensuring the offering caters to the business’ specific consumer demographic.
“I’ve been stocking fashion watches ever since my store opened 17 years ago. I’ve pretty much gone through all of them [fashion watch brands], having sometimes found that they might work for two or three years but then sales have slowed or for some unknown reason they might have changed their look or direction, which hasn’t connected with my customer,” she explains.
Timmermans also points to the importance of being in-tune with the desires of consumers. “It’s about knowing which brands are currently trending with consumers and keeping up with fashion. A brand needs to be out there, seen on the right people,” she says, adding that her clientele is very aware of current trends.
“We definitely have customers who work out exactly when the new season is coming and ask, ‘Oh, have you got the new range yet? What’s happening next season?’ They’ll keep popping in because they know there might be a new strap colour or a new size that they’re looking for.”
With this point in mind, it would seem that as long as suppliers maintain their commitment to delivering on-trend styles at accessible price-points, consumers will continue coming to the fashion watch party, and there’s nothing fickle about that.