Tuesday, December 24, 2019

Tis' The Season

I woke up this morning a wee bit conflicted.  On the one hand, it is the holiday season which is meant to go hand-in-hand with giving gifts and buying things for others (and as a watch retail veteran I can attest) ourselves. And that part of things can be fun.  

On the other hand, it is also the time of year where brands will try to subtly and quietly make changes, redeploy troops and open the transfer window.  

It is now well understood that Swiss Watch exports remain down, and it is also clear that things in Hong Kong are not turning around any time soon.  A few exit visas have been processed and former loyalists are now "in the wind" looking for the next campaign to join.  And sitting where I do, somewhat uniquely sandwiched between Brand, Retailer and Journalist I thought today would be a good day to offer a few observations and a few suggestions.

1.  Good things, believe it or not, often take time.
In an industry where the most common excuse/admonishment to outsiders is:
"You just don't understand this business".  It seems to be rife with quick-change artists.  How often do we read about how Person X single-handed turned things around?  

Remember Nataf?  How about Perriard?  I could offer more recent examples, but I think you take my point.  Brands take more than months.  In all honesty?  They take more than a few years.  And this is true whether it is an established brand like Zenith, or a new creation like HYT.  But that's at the top level.  The same is true at the lower / middle levels as well. It strikes me as oddly puzzling that for several brands, some in the big groups, a CEO is viewed almost like a utility midfielder in a football (soccer) team.  Instantly interchangeable and replaceable.  Ever wonder why brands launch into a series of seemingly unrelated PR initiatives and sales strategies?  That's because they've churned through a serious of seemingly unrelated employees.

2.  Less is more - short and sweet.  Stop intentionally over-producing with the notion that you can sweep it under the China/Hong Kong trans-shipping carpet.

3.  Stop feeding the Grey and Light Grey market.  It's a poorly kept secret that brand executives (present and past) have invested in grey and light grey market outlets by selling their brands' watches directly down the river.  Ever wonder how a grey-marketeer has Brand X's watches for sale at 40% off BEFORE their authorized retailers and brand boutiques have them?

To quote Anthony Bourdain -
"Can't believe it's not butter?  I can."

Pete Rose can be banned from the Hall of Fame for betting on baseball games, but apparently it's perfectly okay to bet against your own brand's boutiques, retail partners and direct customers.

What it all comes back to is change.  The fear of it, the anxiety created by it, the pain of undertaking it.  

We are on the cusp of yet another new year, another 12 months of possibilities.  Let's see what develops.  

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