Michele watches is hedging a comeback on hybrid smartwatch technology.The midprice watch brand — a subsidiary of the Fossil Group — says that sales have lagged somewhere between $15 million and $20 million per year, since the label’s peak popularity about five years ago.The brand hopes to regain market share and consumer interest with the introduction of the Connected Hybrid Smartwatch, released today.“We have an advantage that we are less exposed to noise out there in regards to watches,” said Michele director for global brand management, Patrick Ranger. He feels the brand’s quieter notion will lend itself to exponential growth.Michele is on track to grow between 2 and 5 percent this year — and is projected for similar growth in 2018. Ranger anticipates the brand will net between $80 and $90 million in sales for 2018.“We are growing back. Our projection for next year is to be back where Michele was at its height. I think we’ve had to make some tough decisions with our distribution, we wanted to make sure we don’t chase quarterly purchases and are in it longer-term to maintain brand health,” Ranger said, noting the label hit its peak between 2010 and 2013.Specialty stores and department store partners including Nordstrom, Neiman Marcus, Saks Fifth Avenue and Bloomingdale’s will help launch Michele’s Connected watch. These bricks-and-mortar efforts are coupled with a digital sales and marketing strategy to leverage online sales, which account for 25 percent of brand transactions.The product will launch with four colorways: midnight blue, gray, and black faces, matched with variations of stamped alligator straps and metal bezels. The watch is priced at $495, retail.As is typical of Fossil-produced hybridized technology, the watches connect to Bluetooth and sync with wireless networks. Sleep tracking, phone alerts, music control and a camera are among its tech features.“It’s critical we engage in wearable technology and smartwatches but at the same time, do it in a way that fits our traditional Michele customer. Engaging with them and not intimidating them at the same time. It does also give us an opportunity to get in front of someone perhaps younger and more progressive, who [is] excited about wearable technology,” Ranger said of the introduction.The executive projects that the hybridized smartwatches could account for approximately 5 percent of brand sales over the next year. He aims for this ratio to grow to an eventual 20 percent.
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