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An unlikely success: Denim and Time

Despite being a well-known brand with a strong legacy, Jag watches’ buoyant performance has been a pleasant surprise for its new supplier. TALIA PAZ reports.

Watches have long been part of Duraflex Group Australia’s (DGA) heritage. The local supplier began distributing watches and watchbands in 1962 before adding jewellery to its stable several years later; however, it’s the recent distribution deal with Australian brand Jag watches that’s worth noting.

DGA secured distribution rights for Jag in August 2016 after news that previous supplier Time Essentials had entered administration.

At the time, DGA managing director Phil Edwards said the agreement was finalised following a “significant” tender process involving many interested parties and several weeks of discussion with Jag’s parent company APG & Co.

The Jag watches story is interesting because the Jag name was founded as a denim jeans label in the 1970s by Adele Palmer and is often referred to as the “original Australian denim brand”. According to the APG & Co website, it gained international recognition after Steve McQueen, Jackie Onassis and Bianca and Mick Jagger were part of the brand’s star-studded following.

In an unusual move back then, the Australian distributor of Sheaffer pens, Izzy Wolfe, approached Jag to launch a new watch range under license. Although licensing of fashion labels these days is common, it was seen as an innovative move 40 years ago but, by all accounts, proved worthwhile.

Hagemeyer took over the watch brand’s development and distribution in the 1990s and remained responsible for this until 2009, when it announced it would no longer distribute ‘lifestyle’ brands. The journey wasn’t over though because John Papaioannou, who was then Hagemeyer Lifestyle Brands general manager, established Time Essentials and continued distribution of Jag.

It’s impressive for any business to exist after 40 years but Jag’s diverse history and the fact that it has remained relevant to a consumer base spanning several generations adds an extra level of intrigue – even more so now as it enters a new chapter with DGA.

DGA watch division sales manager Jeff Rennie admits initially there were hesitations to take on the range.

“The Jag brand name is iconic in Australia and this is certainly a big advantage; however, our short term trepidations were more about the state of the market, the pre-existing retail relationships and the maintenance of these areas prior to the previous distributor going into administration,” Rennie explains.

“We had no price list, no customer list, a pallet load of stock, spare parts and had to get a brand up-and-running in three weeks [for the International Jewellery Fair] –that was a challenge,”he adds.

Overcoming challenges

Any obstacles were quickly overcome, with the brand recording impressive results just months later.

Rennie says it became obvious that the range was exceeding expectations in the lead-up to Christmas 2016. “We started to see the strong volume of re-orders,” he states, adding, “The pleasing aspect is that in the space of nearly 12 months we have seen our sell-through rate lift appreciably and we are now ranked in the top three brands with some of our major retail partners.”

So what is it about Jag watches that strikes a chord with the local market?

“Branding today is key in any market but it’s difficult to measure that quantitatively,” Rennie says. “What we do know is that having a pedigree steeped in casual fashion and the heritage of a brand that spans 40 plus years with its origins founded in Australia, strongly resonates with the consumer.”

In addition to the short-term apprehensions about distributing the range, Rennie explains that the acquisition offers new challenges for the supplier.

“With Jag being a licensed brand, it has presented new challenges from those experienced with our other international brands,” he says, adding, “It is our responsibility to source and develop all aspects of the brand from product, boxing, point-of-sale and all collateral material; something that we hadn’t undertaken to this scale before.

“Whilst it’s been a challenge on the one hand, it has also presented a real opportunity on the other. We now find that we are more in control of our own destiny, being able to develop product that meets the need of our own market.”

Rennie says that DGA is optimistic about the future of Jag watches.

There are currently 370 stockists in Australia and New Zealand, with Rennie stating there are plans to broaden distribution in suburban and regional markets.

Talia Paz • Staff Journalist

Talia Paz is a staff journalist for Jeweller, and has more than three years' experience as a freelance journalist for national and international publications, covering a wide range of industries.

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