Despite Coronageddon, Watches of Switzerland is having a great year. Actually, make that because of Coronageddon. “Consumers simply had less buying options,” CEO Brian Duffy told The Robb Report. “People who typically spent their wealth on travel, dining out and clothing began acquiring assets with longevity.” Assets with longevity. Riiiiight. Anyway, WOS is using their swelling profits to open monobrand watch stores. Lots of ’em . . .
Watches of Switzerland will be opening three Breitling boutiques at The Mall at Green Hills in Nashville, Tennessee (above); Valley Fair Mall in San Jose, California; and King of Prussia Mall in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The latter will also be welcoming a new Tag Heuer store.
The Roosevelt Field Mall in Garden City, New York and The Gardens Mall in Palm Beach, Florida will both house new Tag Heuer and Omega boutiques. All are currently slated to swing open the doors by mid-December.
The move makes sense on many levels. For one thing, you can bet that the manufacturers in question – Rolex, Audemars Piguet, Breitling and OMEGA – are footing part of the bill. If not with cash, then by agreeing to a lower wholesale price. Even a ten percent increase in the WOS’ standard 40 percent markup buys a lot of real estate – especially with malls desperate for solvent tenants.
Monobrand watch stores are also smaller/less expensive than a multi-brand store. I’d bet dollars to donuts the conversion rate is higher. It’s easier to sell a particular watch brand without other brands clamoring for attention. The customer is forced to focus on one brand proposition – Rolex = achievement, Audemars Piguet = class, etc. – rather than having to choose between them.
In fact, monobrand boutiques take branding to another level. Everything in the store – signage, decor, displays, lighting, smell – emphasizes the central brand proposition. Equally, the sales staff are selling a brand, not just a watch. With better brand and product knowledge, the pitch is stronger.
Crucially, data capture in a monobrand store is more effective and efficient.
A customer is more likely to “buy into” a brand – surrendering his or her details – at an OMEGA or TAG Heuer boutique than a Watches of Switzerland multi-brand store. The information gathered is more useful. Instead of a vague idea of the customer’s price point preference, the boutique can record the exact model/models that piqued the customer’s interest and work on sealing the deal in subsequent emails, texts, social media DM’s or phone contacts.
Who owns the personal data from a hybrid monobrand watch store, Watches of Switzerland, the brand or both? That I’d like to know. In any case, what’s not to love about monobrand watch stores? Footfall.
I don’t know how many watch buyers collect one brand of watch, but I can’t imagine it’s the majority. Sure, if you want a Rolex, a Rolex store is a great place to buy one. But if you already have a Rolex (or two), you’re going to want to see what else is out there. You know, shop. Schmooze. At a multi-brand store.
Although individual watch brands have an escalating price ownership ladder, again, who stays within a watch brand as they move up? It’s more like Seiko -> TAG Heur/Breitling -> Rolex -> Audemars Piguet. If you’re at the AP, Patek Philippe or Vacheron level, would you really want to darken the door of a TAG monobrand store? If you’re a TAG buyer, wouldn’t the retailer want you to see and lust after a Rolex?
From the retailer’s point-of-view, the more brands they offer the greater the chances of making a sale.
I know that seems to contradict my previous point: better conversion rates at monobrand stores. But it’s a choice between higher conversion rates with less traffic or lower conversion rates with higher traffic. Of course, Watches of Switzerland has both types of stores, so they can play it both ways. Unless the multi-brand store is too close to the monobrand store. Right?
If you’re a watchmaker, a manufacturer-owned monobrand store eliminates the need to pay someone 40 percent of the sale price. But you have to eat indeed manage all the costs. Are manufacturers as good at finding productive locations, negotiating rent, designing the retail environment, hiring and managing staff and selling watches as a dedicated retail operation? The jury’s out, but I wouldn’t bet on it.
I reckon Coronageddon is driving the monobrand boutique trend. Thanks to lockdowns and general COVID wariness watch buyers now shop watch brands online. They decide on a watch or brand, then seek out the store. The monobrand boutique benefits from the current “destination shopping” climate, but for how long? How long before vaccinated watch buyers revert to their preference for in-person multi-brand browsing?
The great thing about capitalism: the customer chooses the winners and losers. One thing’s for sure: as long as individual watch buyers buy more than one watch, we won’t see the end of multi-brand boutiques. And the service at a monobrand boutique is first-class. For us, it’s win – win.