Retail – Interview with Christophe Chaix of DFS Group
How strong is the economic recovery in Asia, and in particular for DFS?
We are seeing positive signs of a retail recovery in our locations around Asia. Travelers account for around 30 per cent of worldwide luxury purchases, and because we serve this steadily growing market we are able to see trends much faster than traditional domestic retailers. At DFS we will continue being disruptive in our product offering with new exclusive products and experiences to innovate and surprise our customers.
What brands perform most in percentage?
Some of the best performances we have seen in watches and jewelry are the brands who continue to be daring in their approach to product development and who excel in digital communication. At DFS, we curate our customers’ experience as well as our product collection around the thrill of discovery through new and innovative store designs, unique pop-ups, personalization services, and our engaging and well-trained sales associates. Watch and jewelry brands that have been able to reinvent their product offer, controlled over-distribution, and maintained a close relationship with their audience have been seeing the best performance. We have seen many trends in watches this year, whether it is the explosion of the blue dial offering, to Worldtimers, or new strap systems that give the customer the flexibility to wear their timepieces in a formal or casual sport setting.
Is there any surprise (out-performing brands for instance?)
At DFS, we are committed to having the right product at the right time for our discerning consumers, and this means that we need to plan events like the Master series up to 12-14 months in advance. Knowing how to balance the most popular brands now with ones that we predict to be hot a year and a half in advance is really a skill for us. Research tells us that travel retail is expected to grow at a CAGR of +8% by 2020, and Watches, Jewelry, and Accessories is expected to grow by +14% (fastest growth of sales mix) followed by Fashion (+9%). So we closely monitor consumer patterns, trends, and brand dynamics so that we can stay ahead of the needs of our traveling customers.
Is there an impact on your mid-term strategy ?
We will pay close attention to the novelties launched at each year’s SIHH and Baselworld events as injecting newness to the core timeless products in each assortment offering is key. Classical dress and sports watches respecting the brands’ heritage and DNA make up a large part of our watch sales. It is very important to also support the smaller brands as much as the larger brands – they invest constantly in pushing new innovation and product development. We are always amazed at how technology mixed with traditional watchmaking skills advances the selection of watches year after year, whether it is ultrathin movements, new materials hosting more accurate movements, and all the work on the development in ladies offering. But at the end of the day it is the customer who decides what we do and where we focus.
Do you see an evolution in customer trends for watches ?
Finally, the movement. These new steel variations of the Parmigianino 9 Tonda 1950 include all the calibre PF702. The Gold editions have the calibre PF701. The shape of the bridges, the design on the micro-rotor, the placement of the technical elements, the variable-inertia equilibrium wheel or the finishing of the components look the same to me. Still, Parmigiani announces that the PF702 movement of the steel variations have 48h of electricity reserve (vs. 42h for its gold versions). It means an update of this mainspring or less energy intake. And that is again fantastic news. For the rest, the movement is a joy for the eyes, with hand-finishings about — glistening chamfers, circular graining on the primary plate, Geneva stripes, polished sinks and screws… Undoubtedly pleasant.Now comes the final hammer stroke… The price of the Steel Parmigiani Fleurier Tonda 1950. Well, you will be able to get them (white or black) for 8,950 Euros (retail cost). The Parmigiani Fleurier Tonda 1950 Galaxy Gold Bracelet and the Tonda Métropolitaine Selene are the latest unofficial (maybe official at some point) “his and hers” dress watch offerings from the brand.
Watches are very personal companions that last a lifetime and can be tailored to one’s mood, lifestyle, or even profession. Many of our customers are looking for the watch their parents used to wear. Equally, a growing segment of younger customers want to discover a new brand with some edgier styling and not anything that their parents might have worn! While this segment is growing, the brands who have a long heritage and recognizable DNA remain in the highest demand in our network.
What’s special about Macao Masters of Time this year ?
This year, we took our customers on a sensorial experience revolving around the concept of memory and how watch collectors and creators commemorate life’s most significant moments. Parmigiani Fleurier made its debut while Montblanc displayed high-end writing instruments for the first time. Bulgari, Tag Heuer and Piaget showcased worldwide exclusives or pre-launches. We also hosted Vacheron Constantin’s exhibition “Invitation to Travel: Blue Hour” with exclusive commissioned photos of Hong Kong and Macau from photographer Romain Jacquet-Lagrèze. We also integrated other DFS categories to delight all our customers, such as offering them The Macallan whisky and fine Petrossian caviar. The 2017 Masters of Time exhibition will remain available for viewing and purchase at T Galleria by DFS, Macau, Shoppes at Four Seasons until February 28, 2018, so there is plenty of time for people to visit this year’s display.
As a VIP retailer, what do you think of Baselworld’s new format?
As a partner to many brands in the various fairs around the world, what we love most about our job is gathering together with the industry and fellow retailers to talk about WATCHES! While Baselworld is shorter this year, our teams stay from start to finish – planning ahead for the years to come and also taking the time to meet new people and new brands.
Will you attend GMT’s 18th Anniversary during SIHH?
Only if the champagne is cold enough! Of course we will, the GMT gatherings are always a great place to relax and talk about watches with new and old friends.