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Strong luxury watch demand drives online sales at Watches of Switzerland

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Demand for luxury watches outstripped supply over Christmas – and UK online sales at Watches of Switzerland more than doubled. 

In the UK, the retail group used multichannel strategies including luxury concierge and collect services to boost online sales while its stores were closed. Shops traded for only 37% of their potential opening hours during a 13-week third quarter that included eight weeks of national lockdowns.   

The group today reported third-quarter sales of £272.6m in the 13 weeks to January 24. That’s 5.7% up on the same time last year. UK sales of £186.1m were 1.5% up on last year – including a 121.1% rise in ecommerce sales. In the US, sales of £86.5m were 19.2% up on last time, with ecommerce delivering “according to plan”. Watch sales grew by 10.2% in the third quarter, while luxury jewellery sales were down by 20.1%.

Nine-month sales of £686.8m are flat (+0%) compared to the previous year. In the first nine months of its financial year, watch sales accounted for 86% of group revenue. Those sales grew by 3.1% over the period, while jewellery sales fell by 18.2%. The retail group says that lower levels of traffic across both of its markets have been more than offset by higher conversion rates.

Watches of Switzerland chief executive Brian Duffy says its performance was “driven by continued strong growth in the US and a surge in UK online sales, which mitigated the significant headwinds, the extended period of store closures and the continued very low level of international business in the UK.

He adds: “We continue to provide an exceptional customer service during these unusual circumstances, making further enhancements to our customer relationship management, ecommerce and clienteling capabilities through the introduction of our luxury concierge and collect service and the launch of our new virtual boutique. 

“Our performance is underpinned by the strengths of our leading multichannel business model and the uniquely attractive qualities of the luxury watch category, where demand continues to outpace supply. The experience of prior lockdowns in the UK has given our teams the tools to optimise commercial opportunities through online and clienteling, whilst in the US we are driving fantastic conversion levels with continued subdued traffic.”

The retailer says that as yet, there has been no disruption to its supply as a result of Brexit. However, it is campaigning to have tax-free shopping for tourists restored. The government has said that extending tax-free shopping to EU shoppers would cost up to £1.4bn a year. 

Watches of Switzerland Group sells online and through 146 shops. Of these 35 are dedicated brand stores operated in partnership with luxury watch brands from Rolex to Omega and Breitling. The rest operate under its own brands of Watches of Switzerland, which is ranked Top500 in RXUK Top500 research, Mappin & Webb, Goldsmiths (Top250) and, in the US, Mayors. 

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