Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Swiss Watches Are the New Growth Industry

Thoughtful Ideas spent last week in Central Europe attending a conference on global regulation and other events.

TI departed home from Zurich International Airport.  As might be expected, the airport’s duty free shops feature the full range of Swiss-brand watches, from the low-cost Swatch brand to top of the line luxury watches.  By far the largest selection is  Rolex watches ranging in price from $5,000 to $50,000.

Most of the customers at the Rolex counter were mainland Chinese.  TI knows sufficient Chinese to identify Chinese passports and understand basic Chinese conversation.  I observed a smiling Chinese gentleman admiring the watch he bought.

The Chinese middle class can afford to travel and buy luxury items in increasing numbers.  I fully expect the Rolex display to increase in size in coming years, and the same for ladies’ clothing and handbags.

Buying in Europe insures the purchase of the real thing, not a fake knockoff.  Returning from Europe with the real luxury item carries status in China.  Also, duty-free saves the VAT that that is paid on retail purchases inside China.

I will not be surprised to see want ads placed by Swiss companies for skilled watchmakers to meet the growing demand from Chinese travelers.

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