Swiss luxury watches were dropped from many shopping lists last year as imports of the pricey timepieces to the UAE fell by almost 35 per cent. The Federation of the Swiss Watch Industry said that while the Emirates remained in the top 10 markets for Swiss watches, imports fell to 438 million Swiss francs (Dh1.49 billion). It said the global sales fall was 22.4 per cent. Mohi-Din bin Hendi, the president of the Bin Hendi retail group that sells luxury watches, said sales at its watch division tumbled by at least 45 per cent last year compared with 2008. "Expensive watches had a tough time selling," he said. "I guess people who had the desire to buy did not buy. Because it was desirable, not essential."
Retailers struggled last year, squeezed by increasingly budget-conscious shoppers and high retail rents. Luxury retailers were the hardest hit. Worldwide exports of Swiss watches last year dropped from 17bn francs to 13.2bn francs, the federation reported. The top market last year was Hong Kong, at 2.17bn francs, which was down 19.7 per cent from 2008. The US came in second, at 1.47bn francs, down a hefty 37.9 per cent from the year before. France was the third-biggest importer of Swiss watches, with imports valued at 969m francs, down 14.4 per cent.
"The sector was hit by a general fall in demand linked to the world economic crisis and suffered on all of its markets and in all segments," the federation said. "Signals perceived on the markets indicate that 2010 should see a turnaround for Swiss watch exports. It will however be modest and will only really be felt in the second half of the year." @Email:email@example.com