Tuesday, November 5, 2019

The Straight Skinny

So I wanted to take a moment to try and offer a counter opinion on some of the soothsaying and rather goofy prognostication going on out there about the state of the retail watch industry.

The watch customer has changed -
No, not in any real way other than how they buy and sell watches. There are just as many of them, but they are opting to either buy used, grey market, or in some instances go straight to the brand to get the best possible price. Sorry Mr. and Ms. Retailer, loyalty it seems is only as strong as a given retail economy.

For better or (I think) worse, the perceived customer in North America (at least if print and digital advertising is anything to go on) is predominately white, upwardly mobile, and apparently (and this one kills me) a fan of F1 racing.  I have no doubt that the marketing shot callers in Biel, Le Locle and Glashütte are also convinced that these "unicorn' customers also keep a kitchen cabinet filled with jars of Nutella.  Spoiler alert - they don't.

The reasons why people are buying expensive watches have changed -
John Goodman as Charlie Meadows in Barton Fink:
“You might say that I sell peace of mind”.

Yeah, not so much.  More often than not, the customer is coming in looking for a specific watch that they have seen, read about, or heard about... somewhere else.  And the guys out there are, more often than not, buying an expensive watch for the same reason that they bought it five years ago.  Work bonus, anniversary, birthday.  Or they are simply watch hounds.  Those realities have not changed.

The reasons why people buy expensive watches are complex and mysterious!
Trust me, it is nowhere near as difficult to understand as some folks would like you to believe.  It is a fun, shiny object.  You see it, you attach whatever psychological tie you wish, and that motivates your desire to own it.  We all latch onto brands for a variety of reasons.  I was, for quite some time, deeply impressed and obsessed with NOMOS.  And all it took was one cancelled press trip to turn me off completely ; )

This is not some super-secret society with a Kaballah-like complexity of esoterica. It's pretty simple. Make your product, promote your product, sell your product, support your customers and supporters.

The watch industry is littered with poorly conceived, over-thought ideas that bring the same outcomes that everything previously has.  

Ultimately, change is painful and scary.  And inevitably, the uncertainty that walks hand in hand with change will cause us to search for, and often create, theories that will explain the sudden disruption.  So I will close with another paraphrased reference from chef, restaurant owner and media personality David Change.  If you've ever worked in a commercial kitchen, you understand stress.  You might be familiar with the expression - "to be in the weeds".  Essentially when you are up to your neck with a million and one smaller tasks making it (seemingly) impossible for you to focus and complete any of it.  The natural, very human reaction?  Try to go faster.  

Per Mr. Chang -
Stop, take a breath, assess the situation.  Then start again.

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