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Timely fashion: adding watches to your offer

Stylish and affordable, “fashion watches” can bring impressive add-on sales and gift purchases to fashion retailers.

Visit Mr Porter’s watch section online and you will find a Roger Dubuis Swiss-made Excalibur Aventador men’s watch for £245,000. But too late:  it has sold out, although there are £69,000 options from Vacheron Constantin, £41,000 Cartiers and £34,000 IWC Schaffhausen watches still available to choose from.

The world of high horology appears to be booming, particularly online, but there is also an affordable counterpoint to the fine and luxury watch business that presents an opportunity for fashion retailers.

Fashion watches, so called because of their often trend-led styles, broad appeal and affordable price points, have emerged as a key add-on purchase or gifting buy for fashion retailers who would not usually consider watches as part of their offer. So, should you be keeping time?

Olivia burton rainbow bee parma violet & gold £125

Olivia Burton

British accessories brand Olivia Burton is one label using fashion businesses as a channel to boost its watch sales. It is stocked in more than 100 fashion stores in the UK, including John Lewis, Selfridges and Harvey Nichols. The brand focuses on simple designs that can be updated with new faces and straps, and it adds new options every two months. This allows the brand to quickly reflect fashion trends such as colours, prints and patterns in its watches. Retail prices start from £72.

Time-honoured fashion

The new fashion orientation of watches is creating a shift in purchasing behaviour, as they become accessories that can be changed to suit outfits.

“We’re seeing a real trend for customers changing their watch in line with their outfit, whereas traditionally they would have worn the same timepiece every day,” says Hannah Williams, national sales manager at Olivia Burton. “We see our watches as true fashion accessories that can be changed with your outfit, just as you would a piece of jewellery.

We’re seeing a real trend for customers changing their watch in line with their outfit

Hannah Williams, Olivia Burton

“Creating these on-trend pieces that are regularly updated fits well with the environment of a fashion store where customers can pop in to buy into a whole new look in one place.”

Pricing is key for this trend. Williams argues keen pricing helps spark spur-of-the-moment purchases – especially for customers shopping in a fashion store who have not set out to necessarily buy a watch that day. Most Olivia Burton watches retail for under £200.

Ticking boxes

Anglo-Swedish brand Larsson & Jennings is another business built on the boom for fashion watches. It launched in 2012 with a minimalist take on a classic dress watch at £135, which came with interchangeable straps to suit shoppers’ style or mood. Stockists include luxury retailer Matchesfashion through to Asos and Zalando, showing the brand’s – and fashion watches’ – broad appeal.

“With the correct price point the fashion watch category can make a perfect impulse buy and add incremental sale to the basket spend of an outfit,” says Andrew Jennings, founder and CEO of Larsson & Jennings. “A space once occupied by jewellery, we are seeing significant traction in growth from watch sales as part of multi-category fashion baskets.”

Watches are also great for gifting, so they tend to perform very well at Christmas 

Deryane Tadd, The Dressing Room

While watches within a fashion store offer impulse or add-on purchase opportunities, they are also an excellent addition as appealing gifting items.

“Watches are a fashion accessory like any other, and are also great for gifting, so they tend to perform very well at Christmas,” explains Deryane Tadd, founder of St Albans womenswear independent retailer The Dressing Room, which has stocked Olivia Burton since 2012.

“I see watches very much as a gifting category for us. Historically, watches have performed incredibly well online, with huge sales peaks in the festive season. A brand like Olivia Burton also brings a different customer to the business, people that would perhaps not usually shop with us but discover us when searching for the brand [online].”

Just a minute

Tadd believes the most appealing price point, for both gifting and add on purchases, is under £200.

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Another retailer hitting the fashion watch “sweet spot” is Kestin Hare, which has a store in Edinburgh and another London. It stocks Scottish watch brand Instrmnt, which retails for £180.

“Price is 100% important for fashion watches,” says founder Kestin Hare. “There’s a sweet spot that Instrmnt have hit where it feels like buying a good pair of sunglasses – you don’t think twice. People don’t come to Kestin Hare to buy a watch, but when they see them, and they love the design, and the price point is so good, it’s a no brainer. They are very giftable, too.”

Britain might still be hoping for summer sunshine, but with Christmas’s peak gifting period on the horizon, retailers hoping to capitalise on the add-on sales power and gifting potential of watches should be on the hunt for brands that offer excellent quality at keen price points and complement their fashion offer. Watch this space.

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