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Smart Watches Rejuvenating the Department Store Watch Category

Sep 25, 2018
Reginald Brack, Executive Director, Industry Analyst ;
Watches Jewelry

When I visited Macy’s Herald Square this week, I was struck again by how watch offerings have evolved – even in the past year alone. Yes, change is definitely afoot in the department store watch category, led by major product launches in the smart watch sub-category. In fact, during the three months ending July 2018, total smart watch sales revenue in U.S. department stores increased by 159 percent. In that time, smart watches captured 9.5 percent of total watch category sales revenue, up from 3.5 percent during the same time period a year ago.

One smart watch brand pushing department store smart watch sales upward is Fitbit. This leader in fitness trackers had not introduced a smart watch to the market, until it debuted its first smart watch last October. U.S. department store sales revenue from Fitbit’s two product offerings pushed ahead of brands like Michele, Gucci and Armitron, during the three-months ending July 2018. By combining innovation in function and design with smart pricing, Fitbit has grown its share, while also contributing to shoring up overall department store smart watch sales. 

Michael Kors has been in the watch business since 2004, when the company first partnered with leading watchmaker Fossil to create its eponymous watch line. The company’s branded watches quickly became a huge seller in department stores, coveted by fashion-forward men and women. In recent years, its watch sales have begun to slow, but adding smart watches to the mixhas helped keep the brand ticking.

Fossil group was founded  in 1984, and the company now produces many of its own brands, including Fossil, Relic, Abacus, Michele Watch, Skagen Denmark, Misfit, WSI, and Zodiac Watches. The company also manufactures watches and other licensed accessories for companies like Michael Kors, Mark Jacobs, Diesel and others. Fossil was one of the early quartz fashion brands that garnered a loyal collector following – even to the point where the tins they were sold in became collectors items. Like many watch makers, over the years their branded analog watch sales have faltered a bit, but their smart watches are working to stem the decline. 

In addition to adding a new techy-cool vibe to the watch market, smart watches help department stores increase customer engagement. They’re bringing people into stores to see the latest models in person. And even when the latest Fitbit, Michael Kors or Fossil smart watch line has sold out – which can sometimes happen in a fast-growing emerging category – they are still bringing customers into brick-and-mortar stores and shoring up department store watch sales.

Information in this blog post comes from NPD’s Retail Tracking Service, which provides point-of-sale (POS) information and insight for the watch industry in the United States. This service analyzes brand-, item-, subcategory-, and attribute-level information of watches across the total market and individual channels, including jewelry chain, independent, department store/national chains and mass/other.

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