As someone with a dual role in the watch industry, I’ve had what is probably an unusual vantage point on many things. My colleague Marc Frankel of Island Watch certainly knows what I am referring to as well. Having a position working in the editorial world and being a watch distributor and manufacturer is not an easy mission to juggle, but it also makes for an interesting perspective.
This has been a challenging year for everyone in any business, but would seem to be an even tougher for people selling what is primarily a luxury item like watches. (I realize just how much of an understatement what you just read is). When the first “shelter in place” orders started to come in from state governments, we had customers cancelling orders and thought we may be looking at a significant downturn in business. Like most everyone, I’m sure, we worried we may be looking at much worse than a downturn.
As the days and weeks went on, we started to realize that not only did it seem we really weren’t losing business but started to see year-over-year growth, especially in the areas where we were selling strictly online. We found this, not surprisingly, surprising to say the least. It became pretty clear, really fast that online sales were going to be the key to making it work in the watch business in the short term.
Having spoken to several online watch retailers and the ones we work directly with, this axiom seemed to hold true. With some ups and downs and several seeing a drop in international orders, including us, total online sales were staying strong if not seeing significant increases. The watch buyer was still there and still looking for their next watch. It seemed the ones walking into stores were now whipping out their phone and PC and moving their watch buying habits online, or at least increasing what they bought online.
Let me be clear, we are thankful for every single sale in this situation and we don’t feel smarter than anyone. This is just one of those situations nobody could plan for and having the correctly working selling channel as much happenstance as anything. When it comes to things like this, I feel quite odd offering advice to anyone as I know our situation could change on a dime. We don’t take anything for granted right now.
The main thing I would share is that working to have closer, direct relationships with your customers that foster real loyalty is the most valuable effort anyone can make right now. We know that has made a huge difference for us. And, obviously, any retailer who doesn’t have an online component of their business, yesterday was the time to build one and today is, hopefully, not too late.
Those of us here at About Time wish all the watch retailers out there our absolute best and hope that each and every one of you have figured out a way to make it work and survive. We are all looking forward to “normal” again, whatever that is going to look like, and hope all of us come out the other side of this stronger, or at least smarter.