No lockdown is going to be saving the AD networks anytime soon, as they remain forced to keep their doors closed during the pandemic. But, that is just one of the many wounds that this section of the watch industry has been inflicted these past few years. And yes this too they will survive. However, news has been circulating about a much more aggressive approach in the battle for your money. Not between the various dealers out there, but between the dealers and the very brands they serve.
Watches & Wonders is just behind us, and ‘online’ was of course the name of the game (it was the only choice of course). Driven by the need to keep the show going amidst the global pandemic. And they did a nice job keeping customers informed through their website, with some interesting original content and a convenient one-stop-shop to get all the news on the latest releases. They also understood that social media is a tool that can be used to reach a watch buying audience and also here they did a very good job in engaging with the public.
All good news then. Well, not quite for everyone so it seems. Browsing the W&W website, when clicking on more than just a few watch brands on that portal, you are directed to their very own online stores. In those online stores the customers can then immediately place their orders at the brands themselves, entirely bypassing the AD network. This is nothing terribly new but it’s the first time that such a big fair directly links you up to the brand’s own e-shop.
Now, news is also circulating that this is also impacting fulfilment. And this is the big news here. Say you really do enjoy the relationship with your local AD and you really wish to buy from them instead of through an online shop based in a certain tax haven. Now, you can of course give them a ring and place an order. However, it seems your AD now faces a new challenge. The brand may not be
able willing to give him a helping hand and, you know, sell him that watch so he can sell it to you.
Instead we’re getting reports that brands are first serving their own e-shop customer base. Only after those have been served do they throw the AD network a bone. This can mean that a popular watch becomes even more difficult to get at your local dealer, since the brands will first be serving the customers of their online stores. It goes without saying that this translates into a lot of missed sales for the authorized dealers out there.
That this happens is of course no surprise. Is this upstanding and gentlemanly behaviour? The kind the industry likes to portray in their ads? Of course it isn’t. This is just business and this was of course bound to happen. The crisis has further accelerated the move online and this is a direct consequence of that. Obviously, in a time where your AD probably had to let go of staff it would be nice if they were given some support by the brands they serve, but then being nice rarely pays the bills.
Nobody is safe it seems. Except perhaps your Rolex AD, as that seems to be one of the only brands not lighting a fire under its own AD network. Patek Philippe also helped out their retailers by allowing them to sell online during this period where they are forced to close their stores.