Swatch chief says situation 'improving'
Nick Hayek says watch orders increased in March.GENEVA - Swatch Group, the world's biggest watchmaker, on Monday said orders increased in March, suggesting the situation was "improving" for the industry.
March "confirms that the situation is improving" and that "retailers began to place orders," Nick Hayek, Swatch's chief executive, told AFP.
"We are no longer talking about cancellations in the order of 50 to 60 percent," he said on the sidelines of Baselworld, the world's biggest showcase for the watch industry held in the northern Swiss city until Wednesday.
"Some retailers are buying more, the same, or 15 to 20 percent less" compared to early 2008, Hayek said.
While confirmation must wait until the middle of 2009, "we have a good chance that the situation will stabilise and that the second half ... will allow us to recover a part of the slowdown in January and February.
"In March, consumers continued to buy, stocks are running out ... and the retailer will have to continue buying and gradually, the situation will normalise," Hayek said.
He acknowledged that sales in the first half of 2009 would fall below the 2008 level.
For the full year, sales would also dip below 2008 levels, but "even if we sell eight to 10 percent less by year-end, we will still have done better than in 2007," he added.
If demand for watches was little affected by the financial crisis, huge changes on the foreign exchange market damaged Swatch's earnings.
The group, with a variety of brands from the plastic Swatch to the luxury Breguet watch, lost CHF 230 million due to unfavourable currency effects in 2008.
Affected by the economic crisis, Switzerland's watch exports fell 22.4 percent in February.
Experts in the sector believe that exports could fall 20 percent in the first half of 2009.
AFP / Expatica