For many years the top watch brands like Rolex, Breitling, and Omega have been fighting to suppress online sales of their watches. I think it’s time for the brands to embrace the Internet and allow their authorized dealers to sell online. The Internet is here to stay. Rolex, Breitling, and Omega will sell online at some point in the future – the time is now.
Clearly consumers want to buy luxury watches online. Some consumers aren’t close to a Rolex, Breitling, or Omega authorized dealer. Why should they have to drive hundreds of miles to buy a watch? And I’m sure that there are millions of people who live in big cities right next to authorized dealers who just prefer the convenience of shopping online. The demand is there.
Retailers want to sell online. It’s a growing channel and allows them to reach new audiences. Consider a Rolex retailer in a small NH town. The store probably doesn’t generate a high level of foot traffic. I’m sure that they would love to sell online to move product. Since they can’t, perhaps they look to unload product through other sources (gray market dealers). It seems as though the supply is there – or could be there.
Some would argue that selling online damages a brand. I disagree. Is Tiffany & Co. an exclusive brand? Yes. Do they sell product online? Yes. Is their stock close to an all-time high? Yes.
Fine. Tiffany only sells through its own boutiques and website, making it easier to manage/monitor. Then what about Coach? Sure, it might not be on the same level of a Rolex in terms of brand strength, but it is a great brand. And all of the arguments that I just laid out about Tiffany hold true for Coach.
Others may argue that a full-out price war would ensue. Retailers in NY would be competing on price with retailers in CA. I think the solution would be manufacturer-imposed price floors. Don’t let your authorized dealers sell for more than 5% off. Then all of the authorized dealers are competing on customer service levels. Isn’t that what the brands want?
To be honest, I think that Rolex needs to act first. If they act, others will follow. Plus, Rolex was slow to move in Asia and fell behind Omega. I don’t think they want to fall behind Omega in the race to capture the online channel. Look at it from another viewpoint – perhaps this is a great opportunity for Omega to hit the gas.
There are many more arguments in this debate. What do you think? Should big brands like Rolex, Breitling, and Omega allow their authorized dealers to sell online?