Luxury watch brands like Rolex, Bvlgari, Omega, Tissot and Longines are eyeing the booming market in India, but they say expanding business is a tough task because of lack of right retail locations and high rents.
"India is one of the largest consumers of luxury watches and the market is booming here. As we know the market value that India offers, we have great expansion plans. But the greatest challenge that one faces in the Indian market is infrastructure and logistics," Ivana Perovick, CEO of Guess, told IANS.
The high-end watches cost anywhere between Rs.15,000 ($320) and Rs.50,000 ($1,100). There are some limited editions that cost up to Rs.5 crore (over $1 million).
Price notwithstanding, people are splurging on these luxury time pieces and keeping the buying capacity of Indian consumers in mind, international brands are desperate to expand business in India.
"Indians are very well-educated and aware of luxury brands. Indian customers are intelligent and when they get quality they don't hesitate in splurging," said Guillaume Marx, area sales director of Parmigiani Fleurier.
"We have established our brand in China, Hong Kong, Singapore and now we are here. We don't have any boutique or multistore partnership till now, but our target is to establish ourselves in the Indian market by the end of this year."
Perovick said: "We have very big plans for India. In the next five years, we plan to expand by five times of what we are right now. We are working on opening 30 stores, including watches, accessories and shoes."
"Early this year we opened a store in DLF Promenade. We are aiming at three more by the end of this year in Saket (Delhi), Inorbit (Mumbai), Phoneix (Mumbai)," she added.
Echoing him, Tetsuji Ishimaru, managing director of Seiko India, told IANS: "We started three years ago in India. As we are a new company, we are looking for expansion in terms of the number of stores, the product line serving variety from wrist watches to wall clocks to table clocks. We are set to open 20-30 stores all across India by the end of this year."
Marc Antoine Abadie, regional director of Harry Winston, says these expansion plans suffer because finding the right location is tough. "Even after wanting to expand the brand desperately, we feel helpless as finding the right location and infrastructure is toughest. Now there are malls that have given us some space to enter the heart of India," said Abadie.
Gurinder Sahni, CEO of Jot Impex, said: "The location for the boutique has been a constant problem as the luxury brands were limited to hotel lobbies and shopping arcades. But with the opening of luxury malls, the destinations for opening luxury brand stores and boutiques have increased manifold."
Malls like Shoppers Stop, DLF Promenade, and DLF Emporio in the capital have allowed the finest brands from different countries like Bvlgari and Morellato (Italy), Guess (Los Angeles) as well as high-end watches from Switzerland such as Longines, Tag Heuer, Breitling, Omega, Rolex and Tissot to increase their reach.
In other metro cities like Mumbai, Chennai and Kolkata, malls are serving as an ideal platform to promote luxury watches.
Although the malls are seen as an ideal place to own a shop, Govind Shrikhande, managing director of Shoppers Stop, says steep rents play spoilsport.
"High rents have always been a state of concern for every brand which wants to position itself in the market. Last year, rent rates were as high as 12-15 percent, but now it has come down to 7-12 percent, giving relief to many of us," he said.
Sahni pointed out other perpetual problems hindering expansion plans. "The problems of customs duties, red tapism, etc. do remain and will always pose a hindrance in the growth of this segment."