Luxury watch firm to provide early Christmas sales insight

Luxury retailer Watches of Switzerland will this week update on whether it is benefiting from customers spending lockdown savings on Christmas presents.

CEO Brian Duffy said the company had seen sales ahead of expectations despite its physical stores being closed during lockdown measures. Picture: Beth Walsh.
CEO Brian Duffy said the company had seen sales ahead of expectations despite its physical stores being closed during lockdown measures. Picture: Beth Walsh.

In October the chain, headed by Scot Brian Duffy, reported better-than-expected sales in the second quarter of the year despite the impact of lockdowns on its physical stores.

It said customers who normally would be spending on holidays and eating out had more disposable income available. The typical spend on timepieces at its stores is around £5,000.

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The company – Britain's biggest retailer of Breitling, Cartier, Omega, Rolex and Tag Heuer watches – upped its full-year outlook on the back of better-than-expected sales despite lockdown-related impact.

Revenues at the firm, which opened a Rolex outlet in Buchanan Street, Glasgow, earlier this year, jumped by 20.2 per cent in the first ten weeks of its second quarter to October 25.

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The Watches of Switzerland Group operates in the UK and the US, comprising four brands: Goldsmiths (UK), Mappin & Webb (UK), Watches of Switzerland (UK and US) and Mayors (US).

In a research note following the trading update, analysts at Shore highlighted the impressive resilience of the trading performance in the UK given the lack of footfall from tourists and lower airport sales.

“Demand for luxury watches continues to outstrip supply,” they pointed out.

Shore said the company’s strategy of selective refits to stores together with investment in its customer relationship systems will aid further growth.

“In our view, this is a management team executing its strategy well and adapting to the unprecedented market conditions,” it said.

The group moved into the US market three years ago when it bought jewellery chain Mayors for around $105 million (£79.5m).

It is currently planning eight new stores in the US, each focused on specific watch brands.

Duffy has been chief executive of the group since 2014.

Brought up in Castlemilk, Glasgow, he has previously served on the boards of several subsidiaries of Ralph Lauren, as well as spells as a director at Celtic and Sara Lee Corporation.

After qualifying as a chartered accountant and working with KPMG in Glasgow, his early career saw him spend time with the likes of Polaroid and Playtex.

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