Haute Horlogerie category watches have bounced back on the retail map with new designs and technology for the younger generation. Images Group talks to watch industry expert, Niladhri Mazumder, Vice President, Seiko Watch Pvt Ltd on retailing of watches in an evolving market like India.
The spurt of smart watches in the market leaves no threat to haute horlogerie brands like Seiko, even though a lot of other brands have joined the band wagon to create smart health devices viewing global demand. For Niladri Mazumder, Vice President, Seiko Watch India Pvt. Ltd., the trend of smart watches will surely continue. In the lead of the luxury watch industry for the past 80 years, Seiko has tackled competition by being the first watch company to launch the sports range to the world with advanced innovations in kinetic and spring drive mechanisms. Confronting global demands, the watch company had also come out with its collection of Astron watches that offered different GPS satellite connections anywhere on the planet. While the global market still relied on radio controlled watches that required antennas to set time within a limited number of 4 or 5 time zones, the Astron Seiko was launched 3 years ago, as the very first GPS solar watch in the world that would automatically set time, covering all 40 times zones in the world, making it the most hassle free watch for the global traveller.
On the whole, viewing the growth of the smart watch as a huge advantage for the whole watch industry, Mazumder is happy to see the new generations beginning to take on the idea of wearing wrist watches again even after the development of gadgets like smart phones and tablets.
“Now, this will get them to buy watches and once you have that strapped onto your wrist you tend to develop a habit of checking the time on your wrist,”says Mazumder,”We have noticed that people who have bought the smart watch have also moved on to buy our own products. It becomes a lifestyle necessity and also for the fact that people always want to wear better watches. Watches have fashion, style and its own personality.”
Going by the trends witnessed at Bassel World, the style has moved to a reduction in complication in the watches bringing back the simpler classic dials. States Mazumder,”For people, the feeling of fashion is important and the feeling that they are wearing the best is also important.” Quality products made by quality watch makers will always stay true in demand. As most watch brands have begun to assemble parts even in places like Bengaluru, Seiko continues to have everything manufactured on their own.
The male consumer continues to be more brand conscious, whereas women are more experiential when it comes to buying watches even though Mazumder finds that both sexes spend an equal amount of time surfing on the net,”I would say that the Indian consumer is extremely educated; they really value what they purchase. There are two kinds of shoppers anywhere, in the luxury brand category. You will find the pre-decided watch buyers will search for what they want to buy and then they will go to the store. Other kind of buyer is the one who wants to gift it to someone. They are not too sure what they would like to buy, but they have a budget and they want to see what is available. Here the store experience is extremely important.”
Rampant fast fashion trends have also triggered effects on buying patterns of watches. Mazumder pointed out that fives years ago the big bulky watches were a big trend in the women’s category but now slowly the brand has begun to introduce sports ranges which are not only restricted to men.
Selling the Seiko Way
The brand had initially set out with a target of 500 stores but decided they would only sell the watch the Seiko way.
“It does sound a bit cliched,”states Mazumder,”but it goes into sync with the global way of selling Seiko watches. It is easy to sell 3 hand watches, when you have watches with so much technology, the way the sales people explain everything to the customer is very critical, as customers would buy a watch only once in 2 years or 3 years.”
Seiko’s exclusive store in Cochin won the best boutique award recently at the Watch World Awards. Its stores located at airports have seen the highest sales in the past few years, making training of staff a very critical part of the brand. Employees at Seiko receive quarterly training which sets the store apart from other innovative and technology based shops equipped with touch screens and gadgets.
“There should be no ambiguity to what our product is, nor do we like unnecessary marketing gimmicks to cloud over our product,”says Mazumder.
Keeping with sudden boom in mobile apps in 2015, Seiko launched its own app that tells its consumers how to set and adjust the time in some of its complicated products. The app was an instant success as it replaced the bulky paper manual that consumers are always reluctant to read.
Seiko supplies internationally to around 120 countries. The brand operates out of 13 national offices and the rest are carried through distribution chains. All the brand’s products are dispatched from Japan and within India all the supplies are handled from Bengaluru, providing the head quarters full control over the system.
“So, you would ask whether this is cost effective, we are making sure that the way the products are packed and the way it is delivered are all essentialised, as our volumes grow exponentially, we are growing at 35% CAGR. Our challenge comes with clocks. Though we do not have distributors for watches we do have distributors for clocks.”
Mazumder is confident that there is a future in limited edition watches such as the Astron series that has been selling at around Rs.1.95,000 last year. Seiko has made watches that are exclusive for 3 – 4 countries. The brand’s Lord collection series was designed in Bengaluru and has seen a big demand in South America, Asia, Europe, Russia and USA.
“For Seiko, India is one of their critical markets. I think after a while a lot of world wide companies will realise that India has a very unique market. The market hotspots for us has always been the USA. The biggest markets in India for luxury watches are Delhi and Mumbai and I have seen a lot of growth in the C and E class groups. Places like Patna have customers who have the money but do not have the places to go and buy products and we plan to target such places.”