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Hublot Outlines Growth for U.S.

Hublot, creator of the Big Bang watch, is plotting for a stronger performance in the U.S., where it is appointing a new president.

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Hublot, creator of the Big Bang watch, is plotting for a stronger performance in the U.S., where it is appointing a new president, establishing directly owned retail units and stoking its growing women’s business with its first targeted advertising campaign.

“We are weak in this country because we are nobody,” said Hublot chief executive officer and luxury watch veteran Jean-Claude Hublot, noting the brand’s U.S. business is small compared with other more established players like Rolex. “But it is beautiful to be weak because the weak can become strong.”

Heading that charge is Hublot’s new U.S. president, Beatrice de Quervain Blanchard, the former head of global marketing for Harry Winston, who starts March 1st.

She will be overseeing a number of U.S. initiatives including the brand’s focus on its women’s business. Hublot named its first female face and ambassador, model Veronica Varekova, who will appear in Hublot ads dropping in U.S. print media this spring.

The ads mark the first time the brand has courted the women’s watch market so strongly. The company, majority owned by LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton, long eschewed the women’s watch business, arguing the brand’s oversize and mechanical styles would not appeal to females. “We didn’t think women would want to wear machines on their wrist,” Biver said.

Proven wrong, Hublot launched its first women’s collection in 2007, and that segment now accounts for 27 percent of total sales. Biver said it could soon reach 40 percent with the help of an expanded women’s collection and new advertising support.

That’s one pillar of his plan for the U.S., which accounts for 17 percent of sales, making it Hublot’s largest market. “We want to put some more pressure here,” said Biver, who is largely responsible for the brand’s growth.

He said revenues globally fell for the first three quarters of the year but sales recovered in the last quarter, particularly in the U.S. where the company posted its best October, November and December on record here. That trend continued in January of this year. “The recovery in the financial markets is helping us,” said Biver, who expects double-digit gains this year in the U.S. market. “People see the future again.”

The company will open its first four U.S. boutiques this year, including one at 692 Madison Avenue near 62nd Street in Manhattan, which is set to bow in June. Other units are planned for Boca Raton and Bal Harbour, Fla., and Los Angeles. All will be designed by architect Peter Marino.

Additionally, Hublot will ramp up public relations and marketing efforts in the U.S. The company spends 25 percent of its budget on marketing, but heretofore those efforts, like Hublot’s recent sponsorship deal with the Manchester United soccer team and the collaboration with Depeche Mode, have been focused abroad. “There will be a meaningful program of marketing initiatives addressed specifically to the U.S.,” said Biver, who declined to give specifics on plans and budget.

Through these activities, the garrulous, ruddy Biver, who also oversees production of five metric tons of cheese a year at his farm in the Swiss Alps, said the U.S. market could quickly account for 25 percent of Hublot’s sales.

“The weak can get bigger or they can disappear,” he said of the firm’s position in the competitive U.S. watch market. “But it is not my habit to disappear.”

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