Booming online luxury goods sales convert watchmakers to the web

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A boom in online luxury goods sales is finally convincing high-end watchmakers, long sceptical that customers would pay thousands to buy intricate timepieces on the web, to step up their investments in e-commerce.

Courting younger shoppers, brands large and small are joining an online push sweeping the luxury goods world, where web sales are already major growth drivers for fashion labels.

“We didn’t realise the speed at which millennials would take to buying cars or watches online,” said Jean-Claude Biver, head of LVMH’s (LVMH.PA) watch business, in an interview at the Baselworld watch trade fair.

LVMH’s Tag Heuer, a label long associated with motor racing, is looking to fully build out its own shoppable sites over the next 18 months, Biver added. Tag already operates online stores in five countries including the United States and Britain, and has a partnership in China with JD.com (JD.O), the company said.

LVMH sister brands Hublot and Zenith are yet to follow suit.

Many watchmakers have flirted with web sales, though often through one-off collaborations with multi-brand web retailers.

Tech-savvy shoppers in Asia have partly inspired a drive to do more – China overtook the United States last year as the leading source of traffic to luxury watch websites, according to consultancy DLG.

And watchmakers have reasons to take control of their online image, as websites run by unofficial resellers proliferate.

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