A revival in consumer buying power and a move to online shopping are the key trends in the timepiece business going forward, according to a recent industry survey.
The survey was conducted during the physical shows of the 41st HKTDC Hong Kong Watch & Clock Fair and 10th Salon de TE, jointly organised by the Hong Kong Trade Development Council (HKTDC), Hong Kong Watch Manufacturers Association Ltd and The Federation of Hong Kong Watch Trades & Industries Ltd. The physical events closed on 11 September.
This year’s fairs deployed the EXHIBITION+ hybrid model and attracted more than 6,200 industry buyers to visit the physical fairs and browse online, as well as more than 25,000 public visitors to shop for exquisite timepieces. The online fairs continue until 6 October. By the close of the physical fairs, the HKTDC had already arranged more than 1,200 business meetings, enabling more global watch and clock traders to explore business opportunities through online platforms.
HKTDC Deputy Executive Director Sophia Chong said: “Although numerous sectors around the world, including the watch and clock industry, have been hard hit by the pandemic, we are pleased to see that affordable luxury watches are a hot pick in the market, and that watches featuring innovative technologies and sustainable elements are part of the new fashion trend. This year, the two fairs showcased a wide range of trendy, high-quality products from notable brands. Exhibitors were also able to capitalise on retail opportunities driven by the recent disbursement of the government’s consumption vouchers.”
Prior to and during the fairs, the HKTDC engaged key opinion leaders (KOLs) to host livestreaming sessions to promote a variety of special watches, helping exhibitors to explore new online business opportunities (main picture).
E-tailing on the up
The HKTDC conducted an on-site survey with exhibitors and buyers during the fairs to gauge development trends in the watch and clock industry. Most respondents considered e-tailing (37%) and the recovering purchasing power of customers (28%) to present the biggest business opportunities. Of the exhibitors surveyed, 39% were engaged in e-tailing businesses, while 33% indicated an intention to invest resources in developing an e-tailing business over the next two years to capture more orders. Regarding product trends, respondents expected smart watches (47%) to be the most popular watch category in 2023, followed by mechanical watches (15%) and digital analogue watches (14%).
Some exhibitors said sustainability themed watches will be another key trend. Speaking at the MINI green watch series product launch during the fairs, Esther Wong, Founder and CEO of Acestar Concept Limited, said: “As people become more environmentally conscious, this green watch collection has become the talk of the town. Sales of the watch at the fairground did well and we have already sold about 1,000 pieces. A new buyer expressed interest in bringing MINI green watches to the United States and South American markets, while another new buyer from Mainland China is keen to cooperate with us by investing in the development of a new eco-friendly product. Overall, the response from both public visitors and trade buyers has been overwhelming.”
The fairs were open to the general public, with a lively buying atmosphere. The on-site survey revealed that the per capita consumption of public visitors was HK$1,146 [US$146]. Mike Lam, Chief Operating Officer of Mira Watch International Ltd, said traffic at the fair was very good. “The average per capita spending by customers at our booth is around HK$4,000-5,000. A mechanical sports watch priced at HK$10,000 has sold particularly well. We expect this year’s on-site sales turnover to reach HK$1 million.”
This year’s fairs adopted EXHIBITION+, a brand-new exhibition model integrating online and offline trade show formats, extending face-to-face interactions from physical exhibitions to an online platform. To help overseas buyers maintain contact with exhibitors, the HKTDC mobilised its 50 global offices to invite international buyers to engage in business discussions with exhibitors via video conferencing.
In addition, the HKTDC utilised its smart business-matching platform, Click2Match, to generate artificial intelligence-recommended leads for exhibitors and buyers until 18 September. The platform also offers meeting planning, instant messaging, video conferencing and file-sharing to facilitate communication between buyers and exhibitors. The online fairs will run until 6 October on hktdc.com Sourcing where trade buyers can continue their sourcing journey at their own convenience.
The renowned Swiss brand Victorinox, famed for its army knives and sporty watches, was at the Watch & Clock Fair to source watch parts and components. Kelvin Lo, Head of Sourcing – Watches, Victorinox Dongguan Company Limited, said: “Through the HKTDC’s Click2Match platform and its business-matching team, we set up physical meetings with six parts and components suppliers before the opening of the fair. The platform proved to be effective in helping us identify suitable suppliers in advance. Following business negotiations at the physical fair, we have been successful in finding five potential suppliers, one of which has adopted a brand-new technology to produce leather straps.”
Chit Tat Clock and Watch Company Limited was another exhibitor that connected with overseas buyers via the Click2Match platform. The company’s General Manager, Philip Lau, said the brand focused on selling to consumers at the fair, helping expand its retail business. In addition, the company arranged more than 20 online meetings with overseas buyers via the Click2Match platform to conduct business negotiations after the physical fairs, with Mr Lau saying he was satisfied with the results.
Following a successful series of fairs over the summer, the HKTDC will hold the Hong Kong Electronics Fair (Autumn Edition), International ICT Expo, electronicAsia, Hong Kong International Lighting Fair (Autumn Edition) and Hong Kong International Outdoor and Tech Light Expo from 13 to 16 October, all of which will adopt EXHIBITION+ hybrid model. Its round-the-clock services will boost the flexibility and effectiveness of business promotion for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) and offer benefits ranging from extended fair periods and expanded platforms to enhanced business opportunities.