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INTERVIEW: Jean-Christophe Babin

Jean-Christophe Babin

Jean-Christophe Babin, Chief Executive Officer of TAG Heuer, talks business in the region and ‘dramatic’ press reports.

July 3, 2012 4:55 by

What sales figures are available for the Arab luxury watch market?

The Middle East is the fourth-largest region in the world [for watch sales]. China-Hong Kong tops the list, followed by Europe and North Amer­ica. The Middle East sells approximately two million units per year, which is 10 percent of Swiss exports, so it’s a lot, it’s a big region. It’s the fastest-expanding region in the world.

The GCC market or all Arab countries?

I am talking, really, about what we de­fine for TAG Heuer. I mean the Middle East, which grows north from Lebanon to Iran borders, including Gulf countries, but excluding Turkey, excluding Africa. So, it’s a big region, the fourth largest [and it’s] quickly expanding. Not only because there is more and more appetite from lo­cal people [for watches,] but also because more and more people travel for business, and there is a large expat community.

How much does that account for in your top line?

Well, I mean if worldwide, it’s about 10 percent. For TAG Heuer it’s less than that, because we are still in the phase of expansion. The market where we are already very well represented is Dubai. We are in major malls, we have several boutiques. Abu Dhabi is also well repre­sented. We will open sole boutiques in Tehran soon. Two months ago we opened our first shop in Saudi Arabia, in Al Kho­bar, but we still have to open in Riyadh, in Jeddah. In this region shops are probably the key element of success, more so than in any other region.

Why do you think boutiques are a key element …. ?

Culturally, people in this region, more so than anywhere else, like intimacy when they purchase. When they purchase they like to really feel the brand and there is nothing better than a boutique to guarantee intimacy. Obviously the traffic is less than [that of] a multi­brand, so the seller does not neces­sarily have the advantage when in a boutique, because [they can miss] the traffic [of a multibrand]. On the other hand, it’s the shopping atmosphere which is valuing the consumer and which is valued highly in this region. It’s a region where the intimacy and emotion of the products are probably more important than they may be in some other markets, and that’s the success of boutiques.

You cannot own boutiques directly, so how are you handling that? Some brands are opting to have a silent part­ner, but be in charge of the day-to-day running, the stocking, the sales . . .

I think the point is to have the right part­ners in the boutique, the right staff in terms of skills, in terms of training, in terms of commitment. It doesn’t matter so much if it belongs to you or not. TAG Heur has al­ways been very pragmatic.

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