The latest Watches & Wonders event, an initiative of the Swiss luxury conglomerate Richemont— opened in Sanya on China’s duty-free island of Hainan on Tuesday, just as demand for high-priced luxury surges. 11 prestigious watch houses are on display for brand-hungry buyers.
For one month until October 31, wanted watchmakers will be featured in the CDF Mall operated by China Duty Free Group. They are: A. Lange & Söhne, Baume & Mercier, Cartier, Hermès, IWC Schaffhausen, Jaeger-LeCoultre, Montblanc, Panerai, Piaget, Roger Dubuis and Vacheron Constantin.
Workshops, conferences and introductions to fine watchmaking are on the program for this second meeting in China. It follows a five-day event in Shanghai earlier this month that marked the debut of Watches & Wonders in the country.
The move comes at the right time. Jewelry and watch sales in Hainan have soared since personal deductibles more than tripled on July 1 to $14,000.
Increased spending across all product categories led to sales of more than 7 billion yuan, or about $1 billion, between July 1 and early September, according to the Hainan Provincial Bureau of International Economic Development.
During this period, the number of customers exceeded 830,000, up 55% year-on-year. This, coupled with the increase in allowance, drove daily spending to an average of $19 million, with a one-day peak of $25 million. Not bad for a post-Covid retail environment – and a complete contrast to most other duty-free environments which continue to suffer from a lack of travellers.
“Hainan has become a leading player in China’s duty-free industry and has outperformed other markets not only before the Covid-19 crisis but after,” said Xu Chen, Spend Data Product Manager. at ForwardKeys. “A robust recovery in spending is underway.”
An associated online marketplace
Alongside the debut of Watches & Wonders in Sanya, a strategic partnership with online luxury and fashion platforms Net-a-Porter and Mr Porter was announced. The two online specialists are part of the Yoox Net-a-Porter Group multi-brand “stores”, the others being Yoox and The Outnet, also owned by Richemont.
In its 2020 financial year, 19% of Richemont’s 14.2 billion euros in sales came from e-commerce, a share the company is trying to increase.
The new partnership makes it possible to exhibit a total of 14 high-end watchmaking companies, brought together for the first time on the two sites. Ten are the same as those exhibited in Hainan: Baume & Mercier, Cartier, Hermès, IWC Schaffhausen, Jaeger-LeCoultre, Montblanc, Panerai, Piaget, Roger Dubuis and Vacheron Constantin; plus the following four additions: Bovet, Girard-Perregaux, HYT and Ulysse Nardin.
Hard luxury is gaining momentum in Hainan. According to ForwardKeys’ most searched brands (based on August 2020 spend), four of the top 10 were now in the jewelry and watches category – Bvlgari, Cartier, Tiffany & Co.
Growing interest in large items
Chinese consumers are also spending more at the high end. ForwardKeys reports that nearly 11% of duty-free shoppers in Hainan spent an average of more than $1,000 per transaction. Last year, this share was only 6.5%.
Net-a-Porter and Mr Porter may be able to capitalize on this luxury rush. It will host digital and offline events, and feature in-depth product curation and new brand launches. For VIPs, virtual one-on-one appointments will be hosted with interactive Instagram Live conversations hosted by Sites Editor Sarah Bailey and Watch Editor Chris Hall.
The combination between Watches & Wonders and Net-a-Porter and Mr Porter aims to bring together the main players in the watch and jewelry industry, and not just those under the Richemont umbrella. The goal is to make these luxury online retailers global destinations for luxury watches.
Alison Loehnis, President of Net-a-Porter and Mr. Porter, said, “We want to provide an international platform for the most exceptional watches…where their stories can come to life and be accessible to watch enthusiasts around the world. .