Watches of Switzerland to focus on digital arm after total sales fall

Luxury retailer Watches of Switzerland has said it is set to focus heavily on online sales after global lockdowns ease as it braces for store customer numbers to be affected for some time even after restrictions are lifted.

The firm is Britain’s biggest retailer of Rolex, Cartier, Omega, TAG Heuer and Breitling watches. Picture: contributed.
The firm is Britain’s biggest retailer of Rolex, Cartier, Omega, TAG Heuer and Breitling watches. Picture: contributed.

The group – led by Glasgow-born boss Brian Duffy – said UK sales plunged 30.1 per cent in the 13 weeks to 26 April. Total group revenues fell 26.4 per cent, with the final six weeks “significantly” hit as lockdowns were put in place.

It had been on track to deliver double-digit sales for the year to 26 April before the pandemic, but said closures of all its stores in the UK and US due to lockdowns had left annual sales growth at 5.9 per cent.

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Britain’s biggest retailer of Rolex, Cartier, Omega, TAG Heuer and Breitling watches now expects underlying earnings for the year of £75 million to £78m – down from £78m the previous year.

CEO Brian Duffy, who grew up in Glasgow. Picture: Beth Welsh/Northcliffe Media.

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It also warned that trading conditions will remain tough after the lockdown is lifted as it faces a lengthy period of lower customer footfall, especially in its airport outlets.

But Watches of Switzerland said the closure of stores had seen online sales take off, soaring 82.8 per cent in April.

Duffy said: “Prior to the Covid-19 pandemic, the group had been on track to deliver double-digit sales growth, reflecting our strong brand partnerships, favourable market conditions and accelerating momentum in the US.”

It is already reopening stores in Florida and Georgia in the US and said the experience of staff and customers so far “had been positive”. But the group said trading will remain under pressure.

Duffy added: “As we look ahead to a post-lockdown environment, we are anticipating a prolonged period of lower traffic, particularly in airports, with ecommerce… continuing to gain importance.”

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