Watches of Switzerland clocks up surging sales amid resilient luxury demand

The boss of Watches of Switzerland shrugged off wider retail woes as he said consumers are prepared to splash out on “rational indulgence” in the face of uncertainty.

Chief executive Brian Duffy told the PA news agency that the high-end retailer was still seeing demand outstrip supply – for its Rolex brand in particular – despite signs of consumer confidence wavering elsewhere in the sector.

The company – the UK’s largest retailer of Rolex, Cartier, Omega, TAG Heuer and Breitling watches – reported underlying pre-tax profits more than doubling to £26.5 million in the six months to October 27 after a 10.3% surge in like-for-like sales.

On a reported basis, it swung to a £7.7 million pre-tax loss against profits of £12.4 million a year earlier due to costs from its initial public offering earlier this year.

The firm was valued at nearly £650 million when it made its stock market debut in May.

Mr Duffy said the group has been unaffected by high street troubles, with luxury watches seen as a “rational indulgence” even in hard times.

“There’s cheaper ways of telling the time, but you are getting something special … you’re getting a family heirloom and something that will preserve its value,” he added.

But he joined fellow retailers in making a plea for an end to the uncertainty that has been taking its toll on the economy.

He said: “I hope that, politically, things move on in some way in the UK and that the country gets some sort of stability.”

The group – which trades as Goldsmiths, Mappin & Webb, Watches Of Switzerland and Mayors – saw like-for-like sales jump 11% higher in the UK and rise by 7.5% in the US.

Alongside interim figures, it also announced a deal to buy another four showrooms from Fraser Hart for around £31.7 million as it continues to expand across the UK, while it is also eyeing the US and airports for further growth.

The group already has 132 showrooms across the UK and US.

Retail expert Clive Black, at Shore Capital, said Watches of Switzerland’s results highlight “the robustness of certain retail segments, even within the troubled UK shopping scene, and how good shopkeepers can flourish”.