Sales of Omega watches in China have begun to slow after growing strongly for the past 10 to 15 years, but the watchmaker’s presence in the market remains firm.
The company would not be “pulling back” in China. The brand currently maintains 120 points of sale in the country, and the brand expects to increase this number, particularly in lower-tier cities.
“The second and third-tier cities people are talking about – places like Hangzhou and Chengdu – where we have opened stores, and Chongqing, which has 30 million people, the Chinese market is still opening up,” Stephen Urquhart, Omega’s president said in an interview with Women’s Wear Daily.
According to the Fédération de L’Industrie Horlogère Suisse’s 2013 annual report, exports to China decreased by 12.5 percent in 2012. The decline in sales has been largely attributed to the Chinese government’s recent crackdown on extravagant spending, though Urquhart claims that his company’s female clientele has “somewhat insulated” the brand from the austerity push.
“We launched the brand here through Cindy Crawford in the mid-90s with the Constellation watch – so for us over twenty years I would say our ladies market has been very strong, on a par with, if not slightly ahead of the men’s market,” he said. “If you come back to the gift giving, maybe the men’s market is more affected by that – because it’s the businessmen and government officials.”
Though sales may not be skyrocketing, consumer interest in luxury watches remains high. According to Digital Luxury Group’s recently released World Watch Report, searches for high-end watch brands are up 59.4 percent in China. Omega, Cartier, and Rolex were the most searched-for of the brands.
For his part, Urquhart remains optimistic about his company’s future in China.
“It’s obviously our biggest market in the world, so investment is heavy at every level,” he said. “The middle class continues to grow and I don’t think the slowdown is as serious as the media in the West are saying. The demographic signs are good here.”
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