5 years ago, they were the “New kids on the block” so to say, but today they’ve established themselves as one of the most reliable luxury watch retailers in Mumbai, India. ART OF TIME is one of those boutiques that defines the story of luxury watch retail, and I don’t mean by just offering an assortment of the finest timepieces. Do yourself a favour and walk into any one of their boutiques and I think you’ll be very impressed with the extremely hospitable and knowledgeable staff that welcomes you, ensuring you enjoy not just a plethora of fine timepieces but the entire experience of customized shopping. After all buying a luxury watch is more of an emotionally driven decision.
As the COVID19 pandemic set in early this year, one of the first businesses impacted was luxury retail. According to the Federation of the Swiss Watch Industry (FHS) report, the value of Swiss watch exports fell by 35.1% compared with June 2019, to 1.1 billion francs. The temporary halt in production and sales during the first half of the year had severe consequences for watch exports, which fell by 35.7% in six months. With some possible hints of the start of the expected recovery, I caught up with Bharat Kapoor and Gaurav Bhatia, Directors of ART OF TIME, India to understand the effects of this unforeseen pandemic on the luxury watch business in India.
Being in the business of luxury watches for approximately 5 years now, how have you seen India evolve as a market for luxury timepieces?
The overall outlook has changed. When Art Of Time opened its first store, we did change the way brands were represented in India. Now most brands want to be represented the right way inside and outside the boutiques to ensure customers have an experience similar to international standards. Social media has had an immense impact and has made the customer more aware than ever about brands and their collections. Discounts are down due to reduction in points of sale. Overall the business was doing well till March 2020.
Considering the unfortunate circumstances we’re in with COVID-19 since March 2020, what were some of the first steps you took to ensure ongoing operations in a lockdown?
A pandemic of such a large scale calls for a more empathetic approach in all operations. We have made sure we kept in touch with all our clients to and maintained a personal rapport whilst ensuring everyone's safety by social distancing. We have worked hard on making our social media and other digital presence more active and relevant. You will see a big change in our online presence later in the year. Once the boutiques opened, we ensured the highest level of safety measures for everyone. Regular sanitisation, mandatory use of masks and gloves, social distancing are only a few of the precautionary measures set in place.
How has it impacted business?
Although the global impact has been strong and business as a whole has been affected, the numbers since June have been satisfactory and honestly beyond what we actually expected due to Covid-19. Hoping for the best going forward and keeping the mind and energy positive for the future.
Has COVID-19 impacted consumer habits & choices? If so, how?
The commercial aspect has clearly been impacted we still have a lot of interest from clients. Although the consumers spending habits are now more controlled, with the help of digital platforms and other engagement sessions we offer various services such as video appointments and home shopping for the client to make an informative shopping choice.
Do you think the concept of retail will change? Is e-commerce the way to go for luxury watch brands too?
Having an E-commerce platform is definitely the way forward, but we don’t see luxury retail changing in terms of brick and mortar stores. The whole experience and collection that we have in our boutiques is unparalleled in comparison to online purchasing. Besides our business has grown mainly on relationships and references. Nevertheless, we do see E-commerce as one of the verticals in our business and feel it will do wonders in the next 5 years or so.
You have a plethora of brands in your portfolio. Do you plan to expand that profile further?
The brands we currently retail have been our strength and have shown immense support and faith in Art Of Time over the years. We would like to expand with some our brands by opening monobrand boutiques as well as new select locations in other cities. Our expansion plans are limited but are well researched and focused. Yes, we would like to add a few select brands who we are in constant touch with. Again keeping the mind and energy positive and hope to sign up with a few of them soon.
What can we expect from Art Of Time in the last quarter of 2020?
We have put together a lot during our free time under lock down. There is a lot coming. Stay tuned 🙂
Strong words from the strong duo! ART OF TIME surely has a very positive outlook during the most unprecedented time in our history.