BASEL, Switzerland, March 23 (Reuters) - Swiss watchmakers
expect the market to stay challenging this year with the United
States, their second-biggest market, showing no signs of
recovering, executives told Reuters at an industry fair in
Swiss watchmakers are grappling with declining sales in
their biggest markets -- Hong Kong and the United States -- and
have been hit by tourist shoppers avoiding Europe for fear of
The trend for shopping online has also kept buyers out of
stores, said Efraim Grinberg, chairman and chief executive of
Movado Group Inc. (MGI).
"We see a significant retail shift, especially in the U.S.
The acceleration of the digital shift over the last five years
has led to less traffic to retailers," he told Reuters in an
interview on Thursday.
"You're seeing some adjustments, but they'll take time to
materialise. Retailers have to up their game to make venues more
exciting and there's also a shift to online sales," he said,
adding he didn't see that resolving very quickly.
Shipments of Swiss watches fell 8 percent in January and
February, dragged down notably by a 12.4 percent decline in the
United States, where shipments also dropped 9 percent last year.
U.S.-based MGI, whose brands include Swiss labels Movado and
Ebel, on Monday reported a decline in sales and profits for the
fiscal year to Jan. 31 and said it expected a mid single-digit
drop in sales this year.
Ricardo Guadalupe, head of LVMH's Hublot brand,
said U.S. sales were flat for the brand so far this year.
"The Americans don't have the same luxury watch culture,
it's not like in China where people love mechanical watches," he
Laurent Dordet, at the helm of Hermes' watch
business, said sales were improving at Hermes boutiques, but
multibrand retailers were still facing difficulties in many
markets, notably the United States, due to excess stock.
Industry major Swatch Group gave a more optimistic
forecast last week, forecasting a 7-9 percent rise in sales for
(Reporting by Silke Koltrowitz; Editing by Victoria Bryan)