< CEO Speak >
International Director of Sales and Retail at Piaget, Edouard Cottin, in a rendezvous with Mitrajit Bhattacharya says recession notwithstanding, their sales will not suffer, courtesy a rich clientele
Take us through Piaget Polo 45, which seems to be the highlight of the year.
Piaget Polo is a historical line, covering both female and male segments. It ranges from historical gold bracelets to leather straps. There was something missing in this collection; it needed a sportier and a younger approach and that could not be done on gold because sports watches are usually done on other precious metals. We chose to do it in titanium. Elegant sports watches go well with casual wear. We were not too strong in this segment. There was a gap and we are trying to fill this by coming up with this new elegant sporty watch.
Do you think the personality of Piaget matches its customers’, who are mainly looking for manly sports watches from the Piaget stable?
A lot of people love the brand. But some of them, mainly the younger ones, thought that it’s a great brand but were not too sure in terms of its sporty products. But now many of these youngsters are attracted to the brand since they have found something more casual. This watch, thanks to its ergonomy, has a 45mm case, though it looks like a 42mm one. And for me, this is the best achievement – to get a big watch that looks very elegant on the wrist without looking bulky. So, it is very Piaget.
Given the fact that markets are not doing too well, what are your plans for 2009?
We are not pessimistic. But at the same time, it would be crazy to be too optimistic. But we think that for our clients, money is not really a problem. Because our niche market consists of clients, who had maybe 150 million dollars three months ago, and would now be having 80 million dollars. At the end of the day, they do not have to change their way of life. So, we are reasonably confident.
Do you see consumer preferences changing in this difficult time, like people going in for long-term value?
We have two trends. I think people will go in for understated products on one hand, and on the other, get back to the basics. The market was boiling and buoyant five years back. Many new brands came in the market. I think it will be difficult for them. So basically, this crisis will benefit the very established brands. It is reassuring. The market maybe cleaned up a little bit, which is a positive thing. It will be better for us, I think.
You have been handling India for quite some time and are going to be responsible in a larger role. How important is India for Piaget?
India, for us, is a strategic market. When you look at surveys, they say that India is going to be in the top five luxury markets in the world within the coming 10-15 years. So definitely, we know that in the long run, it is a very strategic market.
And for us, it is important to create the base now. That is the reason we went for a boutique in New Delhi. India, so far, is not a big market. But Indian clientele is very important worldwide. We sell a lot in India, but even more in London, Dubai, Singapore, Hong Kong and in the United States. The more the retail level grows in India, the more sales we will get locally. We have the same offer they could find elsewhere and at very reasonable prices. So earlier they had to buy abroad, now they can buy locally. This is the beginning of a new process.
If you look at the past five years in India, would you say that you were relatively aggressive or stable? What is your take on the market?
I think we have to go step by step and not sell our soul to the devil. We have to be cautiously aggressive and very selective in the distribution. We have to sell to the very serious retailers who are selling locally. We do not go for the grey market because we have a very limited scope for the brand, i.e. 20,000 watches a year. We have good partners to sell them to. So, we do not have to sell to everybody.