Online surge helps Watches of Switzerland shake off lockdown impact

Henry Saker-Clark, PA City Reporter

Watches of Switzerland has shrugged off the latest set of coronavirus restrictions to deliver higher sales on the back of strong online growth.

The watch retailer hailed “another strong performance” as it unveiled a 5.7% jump in group revenues to £272.6 million for the quarter to January 24.

It said domestic UK sales have remained strong, helping to offset the slump in sales from tourists due to travel restrictions.

UK revenues increased by 1.5% to £186.1 million over the period, as its sales from tourism and airport sites dropped to just 6.6% of all UK revenues from 22.2% in the same quarter a year earlier.

Online sales in the UK surged by 121.1% as it was buoyed by its new luxury concierge service and click and collect options.

Brian Duffy, chief executive officer, said its digital boom “mitigated the significant headwinds, the extended period of store closures and the continued very low level of international business in the UK”.

The chief also called on the Government to review its policy on tax-free shopping after it ended two schemes providing VAT-free shopping for tourists at the start of the year.

In the US, total sales jumped by 16% to £86.5 million as its stores in Florida, Georgia and New York saw “strong sales momentum”.

However, it also saw a slowdown in Las Vegas amid a slump in domestic tourism.

Mr Duffy added: “Through maintaining consistent investment and adapting with agility to changing conditions, we have shown our strategy is working well, with initial findings suggesting we have gained further market share in luxury watches in the UK over the last year.

“With a strong plan for continued investment and future growth, we are well positioned to further enhance our leading position in the UK and become a leader in the US luxury watch market.”

Shares in the company were 2.9% lower at 623.3p in early trading.

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