Watch sales are down

Lisa Napoli Jun 28, 2006

TEXT OF STORY

MARK AUSTIN THOMAS: Careful if you’re driving, but raise your hand if you’re wearing a wristwatch. Most of you still have your hands on the steering wheel. Watch sales are down, especially for cheaper ones and especially among young people. Marketplace’s Lisa Napoli clocks in with details on an industry in transition.


LISA NAPOLI: A recent report found kids have no interest in watches.

I talked to my friend Grace to confirm this. She’ll be 8 years old next month.

NAPOLI:“Do you wear a wristwatch?”

GRACE:“No.”

NAPOLI:“How come?”

GRACE:“For me it’s just one more thing I don’t have to worry about not losing and stuff.Although I have a digital watch in the car.”

Time has moved off the wrist. It’s available everywhere Grace looks. There are clocks all over school, a clock on her iPod, and then of course, her parents have cell phones. Grace will, one day, too.

And this abundance of alternative timepieces is why the low-end watch business is in trouble.

NEELY TAMMINGA:“Watches are just, simply put, falling out of favor.”

Neely Tamminga’s an analyst with Piper Jaffray. Twice a year she polls kids to see what’s trendy: iPods, cell phones, music downloads, handbags, footwear — that’s where kids say they like to spend their money these days.

TAMMINGA:“So when we ask them questions about their intentions to purchase a watch in the next six months, we are seeing an increasing rate of students who say they have no plans to purchase a watch.”

86 percent of them in fact.

TAMMINGA: “We’ve also noticed an uptick in students who claim they never wear a watch.”

59 percent.

Sales of less expensive models have fallen 12 percent over the past year.

And none of this is news to Wilson Keithline. He works for one of the best known watch sellers in the world: Timex.

WILSON KEITHLINE:“We as the manufacturer must come up with more creative designs, new innovative materials and features, to get consumers to embrace our products.”

To do that, Timex has experimented with watches that talk to satellites or monitor your heart rate. They also did one that was like a kind of ATM card, where you could buy your groceries and gas with your watch.

But while you’ve got to have a gimmick for cheaper watches . . .

Here in the Los Angeles Jewelry Mart, merchants will tell you sales of higher-end models are booming. Raffi Agopian’s showroom is filled with faux diamond encrusted watches that look like bracelets.

Agopian says the watch isn’t endangered, just in transition.

RAFFI AGOPIAN:“It’s mainly an accessory, a status symbol, jewelry, mostly anything than keeping time.”

Which is why Agopian feels once people Grace’s age get old enough to realize the value of time, they’ll start considering watches to be wardrobe essentials. .

In Los Angeles, I’m Lisa Napoli for Marketplace.

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