Notable shifts in shoppers’ buying habits and behaviors have sparked an evolution in the watch market of late – and the result is an enduring, growing demand for smartwatches, which offer the allure of customization and convenient, utilitarian benefits that extend far beyond “time” itself.
Proof of the sector’s growing popularity is in the numbers: The global smartwatch market is anticipated to reach $88 billion by 2027, according to data by Acumen Research and Consulting. In fact, over 500 million smartwatches and fitness trackers were in use worldwide in 2020 according to E. Gluck Corporation, a New York City-based watch manufacturer that is venturing into wearable tech accessories in anticipation of the category’s continued upward trajectory.
E. Gluck recently acquired a majority interest in WITHit, a Las Vegas-based wearable technology accessory designer and manufacturer, marking E. Gluck’s first foray into smartwatch and fitness tracker accessories.
For E. Gluck – which manufactures, produces and distributes worldwide for its portfolio of watch companies that includes brands such as Armitron, Anne Klein, Badgley Mischka, Nine West, Juicy Couture and Vince Camuto, among others – the move is representative of a desire to capitalize on smartwatch and fitness tracker growth both domestically and internationally. WITHit enables the firm to expand its addressable market by offering both traditional timepieces and fashionable wearable tech accessories to its customer base.
Bobbie Gluck Weichselbaum, Chief Executive Officer of E. Gluck, said “This investment made so much sense for us. While our fashion timepiece business continues to grow, our ownership stake in WITHit allows us to immediately become a leader in the wearable tech accessory market.”
WITHit specializes in the rapid development of creative product designs for wearable tech bands, screen protection and other accessories for smartwatches and fitness trackers. The company was founded in 2004 and is today one of the largest wearable tech accessory manufacturers in the U.S. Its products are sold on 270,000-plus product facings in over 8,500 U.S. retail stores, including retail partners such as Walmart, Target, Best Buy, Sam’s Club and Barnes & Noble. The brand also holds a portfolio of 38 utility and design patents for wearable tech and reading accessories, such as reading lights and magnifiers.
Weichselbaum added, “We view WITHit as a younger version of ourselves. A company driven and guided by its core values and a relentless dedication to customer satisfaction. Together we are in an even stronger position to provide our customers around the world with innovative products.”
Though E. Gluck will continue to stay true to its roots of the more traditional watch variety, the firm’s move into new territories seems apropos. The firm explained that WITHit is distinguished among other wearable technology brands not only for its leading market position but for its breadth in material offerings, including silicone, stainless steel mesh and link, nylon and leather. “WITHit’s devotion to innovation and portfolio of utility and design patents, puts us in a position to create unique products that incorporate advanced technology and materials for the ultimate in comfort and fit,” said Weichselbaum.
“Whether you have an Apple, Fitbit, Garmin or Samsung watch, our assortment features something for every occasion, which includes wide-ranging activities such as a workout, a hike in nature, or attending dinner with friends,” said Phil Grandinetti, Chief Customer Officer of WITHit.
According to E. Gluck, the partnership is mutually beneficial. As WITHit provides the firm with the opportunity to expand its addressable market and begin its involvement in wearables, E. Gluck helps position WITHit for expansion by providing immediate access to an established infrastructure, state-of-the-art distribution facilities, expertise in digital growth and access to untapped distribution channels.
“Our partnership with E. Gluck not only allows us to instantly scale our operations, but we are also very excited to launch some of the world’s great fashion brands to the world of wearable tech accessories. It also allows us to add Armitron, Anne Klein, Joseph Abboud, Vince Camuto and Steve Madden to our existing WITHit, French Bull and Dabney Lee offerings,” said Bill Devaney, Chief Operating Officer of WITHit.
“E. Gluck has been making watches for the Anne Klein brand for over 40 years and WITHit is very excited to be launching a comprehensive Anne Klein wearable tech accessory line for Fall 2021 as a result of our partnership with E. Gluck,” said Devaney.
E. Gluck and WITHit both create products that speak to the modern consumer seeking utility, customization and lasting value. David Nelson, Chief Executive Officer of WITHit, added “Not only are our companies complementary from a pure business perspective, but E. Gluck and WITHit share core values and culture that make this combination special.”
Times are changing, and like most of retail, the pandemic forced brands to boost their online and digital activity, particularly watch brands that have traditionally focused on retail, Adam Gelnick, Chief Financial Officer at E. Gluck, said – which means that connectivity and brand partnerships are taking off.
“Brand partnerships and collaborations enable growth in tough times – as such, brands, particularly those in the watch industry, are connecting to and working with other companies for mutual gain that focuses on real-value-add for the consumer,” said Gelnick.
Gelnick further said, “Sustainability is king. As consumers are more aware of purchasing environmentally friendly and sustainable products, more and more brands are embracing responsibly sourced materials for watches, straps and packaging and combining it with fashionable designs.” E. Gluck’s Considered line of watches for Anne Klein, featuring materials and techniques that are not only sustainable but fashionable, has categorically resonated with consumers.
There’s also an increased interest in unisex and genderless fashion, Gelnick says, which indeed applies to the wearables sector and watch industry-at-large. “Brands are increasingly shying away from labeling their products by gender – especially when it comes to watches. For example, many women prefer the large dial that may have once been considered ‘traditionally male’ watches. The idea now is for consumers to choose a watch that catches their eye and suits their own style and preferences without constraint,” Gelnick said.
With more consumers working from home, “sport-chic” and casual watches gained favor among shoppers, Gelnick says, and wearable tech which is prized for its health and wellness features that are readily accessible through sensors and apps are part of this trend.
And naturally, as more consumers seek fashion coupled with technology, there continues to be an accelerated growth of fashion watch brands collaborating with wearable tech companies, adding to the ever-growing market. Gelnick said that the affordability of wearable tech has made smartwatches and fitness trackers “a popular choice among consumers across the globe seeking more value for product, and this is what makes our partnership with WITHit so exciting.”
“On the surface, our transaction to acquire ownership in WITHit is simply about two companies forging a bond to build a great business together,” Gelnick said. “In actuality, it is a group of incredible individuals with complementary expertise, joining together to create a sum that is greater than its individual parts. This is an ideal that both groups aspire to and together we will hopefully achieve.”