NPD Report: Watch Market Faced with Opposing Generational Demands

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Bradford Watch Co.

Less than half of U.S. consumers wear watches, whether daily, occasionally or limited to special occasions, reports The NPD Group. According its Consumer Watch Report, compiled with partner CivicScience, Baby Boomers tend to be daily watch wearers, making them a core consumer for the market, but this segment is displaying the most vulnerability and erosion in sales. On the other hand, the greatest opportunity for growth lies with members of the Millennial generation.

The contrast in behavior between these two generations poses a significant challenge for the watch industry. Sales within the mainstream watch market declined 17% in the 12 months ending July 2017, and a third of consumers who used to wear watches don’t anymore.

“The current tech-driven environment and opposing generational needs at play mean the motivation behind a consumer’s purchase of a watch has fundamentally changed, and will continue to do so,” says Lori Monaco, President of U.S. Fashion Footwear, Accessories, Luxury Watches & Jewelry, The NPD Group. “Retailers and brands have an opportunity to engage the younger, ‘occasional watch wearer’ by appealing to their experience-based sensibilities—showing them what they could wear for anything from a night out with friends, to a power meeting, or working out at the gym.”

Millennials are not daily watch wearers, but they are leading the industry’s growth. Millennials tend to be occasional watch wearers and are the most engaged in fashion—switching up their wrist style based on where they are going and what they are doing. They gravitate to trendy, fashion-forward styles, but also appreciate the basics; brand and quality are critical factors for them as well.

Baby Boomers tend to be daily watch wearers, and select their watch for “anytime” use. Function is paramount, but the needs of this core group will change and become even more important as the Boomer generation ages, retires and enters their next life stage.

“There are clear areas of opportunity amid the challenges facing the watch industry,” adds Monaco. “The market needs to be prepared to address the older consumer’s changing needs and retain their core wearer, while also cultivating its relationship with younger generations to ensure continued relevancy and growth.”

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