The Richemont Group owns nearly two dozen watch brands, including IWC, A. Lange & Söhne, Cartier, Piaget and Vacheron Constantin. Days ahead of their FY21 Annual Results, the conglomerate revealed its plan to open 100 Richemont TimeVallée multibrand watch stores in the next five years. Or did they? watchpro.com’s headline exclusive on the story has gone 404. It’s been pulled, no doubt at Richemont’s behest. What the hell’s going on? . . . [UPDATE: the WP article’s reappeared online.]
The WatchPro article – saved by the tab! – described TimeVallée as a “multibrand watch showroom concept created by Richemont’s Specialist Watch division” that’s “looking to expand on 15 points of sale in China with a roll out across the Western world.”
Richemont’s already opened TimeVallée multibrand watch stores in Deagu, South Korea and Barcelona, Spain. Where to now? “I see a lot of potential for TimeVallée in a number of US states,” Richemont’s international distribution director told WatchPro. “There are a lot of white spots for us,” Michael Guenoun added, using a rather unfortunate turn-of-phrase.
What’s the bet the “white spot” expansion plan was news to all but the most clued-in of Richemont’s shareholders and financial analysts, and maybe even them? Regardless, the market didn’t share Mssr. Guenoun’s enthusiasm for the Richemont TimeVallée multibrand strategy.
To be fair, Richemont’s stock price has recovered rapidly and dramatically since it sank to $55 per share amidst the global pandemic lockdown (May 2020). To be critical, what in the world are these guys thinking?
“TimeVallée is an innovative multi-brand boutique concept offered to all luxury watch brands and operated by external independent partners,” their website reveals. Never mind the glitz and glamor. The partnerships are the concept’s core.
“The business model is that we provide to our retailer with a plug and play franchise. We provide the hardware, meaning the design, fixtures and furnishing for each store, and the software in terms of training, CRM tools and everything a retailer will need to support their customers . . .
I wonder who gets that tasty customer data. To his credit, WatchPro’s editor is skeptical of the TimeVallée expansion plan and confused about its details (Rob Corder’s honesty may account for the article’s disappearance down the memory hole). “Luxury groups have proved to be poor multibrand retailers in the past,” the writer cautions. And . . .
Rolling out TimeVallée in partnership with retail groups in the USA could be seen as reversal after years of Richemont increasing its direct to consumer sales through ecommerce and its own boutiques [Miami above].
Ya think? And then there’s the big kahuna.
Questions remain over why a major luxury watch retailer and jeweler would open a TimeVallée showroom rather than a store under their own name. The answer is the simplicity and speed that retailers can open and work with Richemont’s watch brands.
“By having a proper multibrand concept like TimeVallée, we think we are adding value for our retail partners and our clients. We do not want to run TimeVallée stores directly . . . There are many retail businesses that have strong connections to their local customers, but do not necessarily have the know how we can bring with our concept,” Mr Guenoun states.
Know-how, schmo-how. Who’s paying for all this TimeVallée multibrand madness? Mr. Guenoun “did not disclose how a partnership agreement would be structured.” I suspect it’s a straightforward franchise deal. The [theoretical] franchisee pays all the costs: rent, furnishings, labor, etc. Richemont supplies its “expertise” and the watches. Ah, but can it?
As the old expression goes, be careful what you wish for. If TimeVallée opens 100 popular stores, Richemont’s top brands won’t be able to produce enough product to meet the demand. Talk about a bunfight!
Which distribution channel gets first dibs on a hot A. Lange & Söhne watch: a TimeVallée multibrand store, an authorized A. Lange & Söhne dealer, an A. Lange & Söhne monobrand boutique or Richemont’s ecommerce division (including HoDinkee)?
The now-you-see-it-now-you-don’t TimeVallée story highlights the fact that the Richemont Group’s watch division is flailing around in all directions, pursuing growth everywhere and anywhere it can, to the point where it’s competing with both itself and its partners. Even The Robb Report – riffing on the WatchPro article – sees the folly.
The development comes in the wake of a successful few years for Watches of Switzerland, the London-based multi-brand retailer. In a somewhat ironic twist, Watches of Switzerland announced in November that it would open mono-brand boutiques for Breitling, Omega and Tag Heuer.
Lest we forget, Watches of Switzerland sells A. Lange & Söhne watches as well as other Richemont brands: Cartier, IWC, Jaeger-leCoultre, Panerai and more. I wonder how WoS feels about the journalistically suppressed outbreak of Richemont TimeVallée multibrand madness.