February 2, 2023

Brand boutiques vs authorized dealers 7Posted by Robert-Jan Broer on

Brand boutiques are popping up like mushrooms the last few years. I wonder how the authorized dealers feel about this and what the ideas are behind these brand boutiques. The authorized dealers are more or less required to buy a certain collection of watches from a brand, even if they know upfront they won’t be selling certain models. The boutiques however, can probably decide on their own what to buy, or it just doesn’t matter because they ARE the brand and can return the watches that don’t get sold back to Switzerland (for example).

The authorized dealers have their own solution for this, which is selling or trading the watches that they don’t want to sell or can’t sell, to [grey] dealers elsewhere, who CAN sell these items. For example, gold/steel Rolex Date-Justs are probably more populair in Asia then here in Europe, and the stuff we need here in Europe is mainly stainless steel. Does this explain all the Rolex sports models with country number 888 (Hong Kong/China) that are available through grey dealers in The Netherlands?

Opening of the Omega boutique in Hong Kong

So, what if you are an authorized dealer of TAG Heuer and 100 meters down the road a TAG Heuer boutique opens its doors? I can imagine how that must feel. Not only in terms of (decreasing) sales, but also in terms of the brand’s loyalty towards the dealer.

TAG Heuer Boutique in Budapest

TAG Heuer Boutique in Budapest

Is this the way for brands to get full control? Opening boutiques everywhere? I don’t want to go to a boutique, I want to go to the dealer I have a good relationship with. So, what options do they have left? Give up their dealership of certain ’boutiqued brands’ and get the watches of that brand via the grey circuit? As a customer, I don’t care much if a dealer is actually authorized dealer or that he gets it through grey import. As long as you have the warrantee, good service and the certainty that it’s all legit and genuine, it is fine by me. The price should be good and you should feel comfortable with the dealer you are buying from. Authorized or not.

Are the brands pushing the current authorized dealers towards becoming unauthorized dealers? Or am I missing something here and do the authorized dealers actually benefit from these brand boutiques? Until I hear differently, I think this is very unfair competition (without being naive of course ;)). What do you think? Please leave your thoughts by clicking on the comments.