Tag Heuer's new Roosevelt store

PARIS — Betting on the potential of the U.S. market, Tag Heuer has forged plans with Watches of Switzerland to expand the store network of the LVMH Moêt Hennessy Louis Vuitton-owned label in the country.

Three new stores will open by the end of the year, in the upscale Pennsylvania mall King of Prussia, Roosevelt Field mall in New York and Palm Beach Gardens in Florida, with more planned next year, including a California location.

Watches of Switzerland, which operates 11 Tag Heuer stores in the U.K., was a natural partner for the U.S. expansion, explained Benjamin Beaufils, president of Tag Heuer North America, over a Zoom call.

Watches of Switzerland is a relative newcomer to the U.S. market, with its purchase of watches and jewelry retailer Mayors in 2017. The company has worked to refurbish the retail network, bulk up its digital firepower and add new stores in Hudson Yards and SoHo in New York City.

“This goes with our own vision of how we want to do things in the U.S. — we are trying to streamline our distribution to elevate the brand experience,” Beaufils said. The label has reduced distribution channels in the country by around 15 percent in order to focus on higher quality retailers.

For Watches of Switzerland chief executive officer Brian Duffy, the U.S. is a market that the industry can tap into more effectively.

“We generally feel that in the U.S., there’s been an under investment in retailing in watches,” Duffy said. “The American market will benefit from and respond to more investment, more elevation, more marketing and more support,” added the executive, who predicts it will outperform the global market.

Global exports of Swiss watches, seen as an indicator of appetite for luxury goods, have been down by nearly 30 percent over the first nine months of the year.

Watches of Switzerland made 19 high-profile recruitments for its two New York stores, noted Duffy, including “essential casting” Kelly Yoch, a Tiffany executive known for her work with the jeweler’s Patek Philippe partnership.

The retailer has also been bulking up digital communications, another key focus that both executives stressed.

“The brands do a fantastic job with product development and marketing, but there’s an interaction with the consumer that retail can do uniquely and very much complement what the brands are offering,” Duffy said. The executive noted high visibility in the digital world, including social media is key, and has himself begun doing editorial-type activity like podcasts and interviews on Instagram.

Under the direction of ceo Frédéric Arnault, Tag Heuer has made the U.S. a priority, rolling out its new Internet platform in the country in March, at the same time it launched a new generation of connected watches — in New York City, just before the first wave of coronavirus lockdowns.

Beaufils said e-commerce has accelerated significantly over the past 10 months, a time when lockdown measures have prompted consumers to shift to online channels for everything from groceries to watches.

The label has been interacting with consumers with more “targeted storytelling,” noted Beaufils, describing the move to communication through digital avenues during lockdown periods, with calls to clients to check in on them and present launches. Speaking with salespeople who consumers know and trust is “the main difference in this retail environment,” noted Beaufils.

The stores will carry the label’s modern, upscale car racing style, featuring its latest launches such as the Carrera 160th anniversary timepieces, which draw inspiration from historic chronograph watches.

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