In a report published by Reuters, Audemars Piguet has said that it is looking to take total control of its distribution channels within the next three to five years, by doing away with its present multi-brand retail partners.
The exercise has been termed by Chief Executive Francois-Henry Bennahmias as a, “consolidation process to arrive at a totally integrated retail network.”
Rightly pointed out by Reuters, Swiss watch brands are on the move to gain better control of their distribution networks, in order to avoid another inventory buyback situation or having inventory turn up in the grey markets.
Richemont, for instance, operates 1,123 brand boutiques globally as of 2017/18. Not forgetting that more and more of the group’s brands are being listed on their own Net-a-Porter and Mr Porter, with Vacheron Constantin being the latest. Reuter reports that the Group’s internal sales network now accounts for 63 percent of its sales.
Audemars Piguet’s own efforts will also see its online store launch no later than in 2019. Earlier this year at SIHH 2018, Bennahmias shared with Revolution saying, “E-commerce had to come at one point. It’s obvious, we see a consolidation in everything we do and no matter what the product — regardless of the industry — people want less and less the in-betweens; between the producer and the buyer.”
Bennahmias maintains though that Audemars Piguet won’t have its complete collection on sale on their e-commerce platform. He, however, did suggest the possibility of special editions launched exclusively online.
Coming back to the Reuters report now, Bennahmias has also suggested that part of his consolidation effort could also include the possibility of buying over retailers if the need presented itself.
According to Bennahmias, Audemars Piguet reported, “close to one billion Swiss francs in sales last year,” and is poised to exceed that mark this year. He accords these recent figures to the ongoing effort of retail network consolidation.
While the watchmakers themselves are marching on with this present strategy, brick-and-mortar retailers remain a crucial infrastructure within industry. However, in the same way that the brands are rethinking how business is conducted, multi-brand retailers will need to move fast in injecting fresh approaches into their own business model.