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Watches of Switzerland online sales grow by 65% as pandemic restrictions limit first-half store trading

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Watches of Switzerland today reported a 65% lift for ecommerce sales in the first half of its financial year. During the 26-week period, stores could only open for 59% of their potential hours, and customers turned to buy online instead. They tapped into advice from specialist watch experts at virtual events and through virtual appointments as well as in-store. 

The luxury watch and jewellery retailer, ranked Top500 in RXUK Top500 research, reported sales of £414.3m in the six months to October 25 2020

 That’s 3.4% lower than the same period last year. Pre-tax profits came in at £36.2m up from a pre-tax loss of £9m a year earlier. Ecommerce sales were 65.4% ahead of the same time last year. 

In the first seven weeks of the third quarter – to December 13 –  sales rose by 11.2%. In the UK, online sales grew by 102.4% while its stores traded only 44% of potential hours as lockdowns affected England, Scotland and Wales. The retailer says trading has been at “a lively pace” since stores reopened in England on December 2. 

Multichannel strategy

During the six months, the retailer has opened new stores – including three new UK Tag Heuer boutiques – and started to sell brands online that had previously only been sold in-store. These include Jaeger-LeCoultre, Panerai, Vacheron Constantin and Grand Seiko. 

Watches of Switzerland’s multichannel innovations have also included an online appointment system for consultations in-store, over the phone or online. Shoppers can now talk directly to a specialist luxury watch expert in a virtual luxury boutique. The retailer also held 22 virtual events for more than 1,000 VIP clients in the UK between June and October. 

The company also engaged with customers through a search and shopping strategy, that included investment on YouTube, display advertising and paid social. During the first half of the year, it reached an average monthly digital social media reach of 41.7m, and a total of a billion digital impressions. Machine-learning marketing uses real time signals from the store and website to respond as shoppers move online.

Looking ahead, it now expects to develop multichannel leadership through a combination of multi-brand and single brand stores, online and travel retail. 

Watches of Switzerland chief executive Brian Duffy says: “We have continued to deliver on our strategic priorities during the first half, achieving a robust performance against significant headwinds, further consolidating our position in luxury watches and demonstrating the unique, supply-driven qualities which underpin the resilience of our category and the strength of our business.”

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