Tissot times Middle East market

Swiss watchmaker says quality and affordability put it above competition.

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By  John Irish Published  February 11, 2004

If you’re not sure what to buy during the Middle East’s busy shopping festival season, then you may want to consider the Tissot brand. As part of the world’s second largest watch group, Swatch, Tissot represents the mid-scale sector of the company. However, according to Tissot President, François Tiébaud, the brand’s appeal is widening due to its high-end technology, 150-year experience and affordable price. “If I weren’t in the business, I wouldn’t want to spend thousands of dollars on a watch,” says Thiébaud. “Why should you pay so much when you have something equally as good, for just US $500?” The global economic downturn of recent years has not helped the luxury watch market. With some pieces costing as much as $10,000, consumers globally are spending less on items, which Thiébaud describes as “not always needed.” However, the Middle East is one of the exceptions to the rule. Despite the war in Iraq last year, watchmakers are increasingly focusing on the region. The high disposable income in the Gulf, coupled with an ever-expanding mall culture, is turning the area into a prime watch market. It currently represents one-tenth of the global luxury watch sales. Tissot’s mid-range models are also on the up. According to him, the company has seen double-digit growth year on year for the last five years. It is also looking to expand on the several hundred sales outlets it has across the region, although specific boutiques are not an option at this stage. The growing expatriate labour force and increase in tourism traffic means that new customer opportunities from these segments are also opening up. The duty free market for one is becoming more lucrative. However, it is the local workforce force that Thiébaud hopes will help develop the brand. “In these countries, at all levels, people are making more and more money,” says Thiébaud. “People who could not afford Swiss watches before are now aware of them. “Local workers whether Indians, Pakistanis and people from the Philippines are buying watches to take home, maybe because of the tax levels there, it’s cheaper here.”

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