Luxury watch sales surge as Britons go on spending spree with lockdown savings

The UK’s biggest seller of Rolex and Omega watches said sales had surged as Britons splashed lockdown savings on luxury watches and jewellery, including wedding and engagement rings.

Watches of Switzerland’s UK sales rose 43% compared with the pre-pandemic levels in the 13 weeks to 1 August, as the company bounced back from the coronavirus lockdowns.

The strong UK performance helped the group more than double year on year sales to £297.5m in the quarter as trading in the US also took off.

Brian Duffy, chief executive of the Leicestershire-based retailer, which floated in 2019, said sales had risen despite the loss of tourist traffic in the UK and fewer customers visiting stores. Only 7% of UK sales came from overseas visitors compared with about 30% in 2019.

He said: “People have accumulated disposable income as they have had fewer places to spend and enjoy it because of not travelling or socialising. There’s money around and we are getting our share, or more than our share. We anticipated a strong period and so we have invested in marketing, training [for staff] and stock.”

He said sales of Cartier and Rolex watches had been strong, as had sales of Omega, which had benefited from its sponsorship of the Olympics.

Sales had partly been bolstered by a revival of weddings and engagements as restrictions on social occasions eased, he said. Wedding ring sales almost tripled and engagement rings doubled year on year, in line with an overall rise in jewellery sales.

Duffy said tstore staff believed customers, particularly women, were buying more gifts and jewellery for themselves, rather than for other people, as treats after a hard year.

He said the spending spree was also partly down to pent-up demand after Watches of Switzerland lost out on about £100m of sales in 2019 due to Covid-19 related trading and travel restrictions.

But he said he expected the run-up to Christmas to be “very good” as people would want to enjoy themselves after another tough year dealing with the pandemic.

The group is opening a new store in Battersea, London, as well as outlets in Cincinnati, Ohio, and at New Jersey’s American Dream mall, despite closures from numerous high-street chains during the pandemic.

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