Divergent covid responses deliver dramatically different results for the watch industry

Patrick Graf.

The United States has been a “rock star market” compared to Europe, Bucherer’s chief commercial officer Patrick Graf tells WATCHPRO in August’s Big Interview.

Financial results from LVMH released this week show exactly the same thing with America rocketing ahead of Europe’s recovery. Watches of Switzerland Group’s recent results show a similar fast and slow lane recovery on either side of the Atlantic.

Mr Graf oversees Bucherer operations across the world, including Tourneau in the United States, which the group acquired in 2018, and has seen first hand the impact of different governments’ policy responses to the pandemic.

His summary: “The UK was definitely a tough one with a heavy lock down. Germany also locked down pretty hard, but we were able to keep business moving in different ways and we had a strong bounce back after stores reopened. Paris is still suffering a lot, not just the watch and jewelry industry, but many other luxury businesses and retailers. It is really difficult and will remain so for a few more months. Denmark is doing OK, but is not a huge business for us,” he begins.

“Switzerland has been extremely strong, particularly in Geneva and Zurich. The USA has been a rock star market,” he describes.

“US was stronger than ever. I can tell you that we had a record year in 2020 and we are definitely going to see another record year in 2021,” Mr Graf reveals.

Mr Graf gives no opinion on different policy responses, but as we emerge from the pandemic in the UK, and ahead of any public inquiry into what went right and wrong, it is worth pausing to reflect on whether the lock downs, business closures (jewellery and watch stores were forced to close for six months in the UK), the travel bans, the social distancing, the masks and other measures adopted widely in the UK and European Union have been the right choice.

From a business impact point of view, it is unarguable that in America, where most states shut down non-essential retail for no more than six weeks, recovery was far stronger.

But was that at the cost of public health and deaths attributed to covid 19?

We have not reached the end of the pandemic, but so far the evidence is that America’s more business-friendly policies made no difference to deaths.

According to widely followed statistics by country on Worldometers, the UK and USA deaths per million of population were virtually identical at 1,896 in the UK and 1,886 in the United States.

In ranking terms, UK is 20th in the world and USA is 21st.

Switzerland is 42nd in the world with 1,250 deaths per million.

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