The time-telling devices in the region have moved beyond style statements to pieces of art and of course, big business.
August 8, 2009 11:11 by Ehtesham Shahid
Point of sale. What makes Gulf markets, especially the UAE, interesting from a watch industry perspective is the co-existence of strong brands with some very powerful distributors. Brands may be arriving in to these markets with an inherent global value attached to them but once they are here, they get fairly dependent on these distributors’ network and retail presence. They choose diplomatic language to describe the situation – “distributors play a paramount role in making brands available to customers,” says one. Others such as luxury watch manufacturer, Hanhart, recently announced Dubai as its base for establishing its regional headquarters without a distributor to boot.
Thomas Dotzek, the senior general manager of Al Futtaim Watches & Jewellery, says distributors usually have their own retail network, or build partnerships with a retailer they believe is suited to their product. That’s how the bridge with the customer is built. “Distributors are also usually in touch with the local market and what is relevant in that market at any moment in time. This helps cater the specific needs of customers,” he says. Others call this monopoly more so because the arrangement hasn’t changed for years.
Al Futtaim, for instance, has been in the watch business since 1977, as the exclusive distributor in the UAE for Seiko, Raymond Weil, and Egana Group (Esprit and Fossil).
The company’s other watch brands include Kolber, Fossil, Alba, Westar and Esprit. Ahmed Seddiqui & Sons says it carries 50 brands, 70 percent of whom are luxury brands while 30 percent are fashion brands. There have been some high-profile tie-ups and acquisitions too. Watch manufacturer Swatch Group last year acquired strategic stake in UAE-based Rivoli Group Investment “in line with its strategy of further increasing exposure to high growth markets”.