The Hour Glass group managing director Michael Tay on what the past 40 years means to the luxury watch retailer and how it approaches digitalisation
“We are looking beyond the 40th year and into the future,” shared The Hour Glass group managing director Michael Tay, who embraces an optimistic outlook on what lies ahead for the watchmaking industry. The trade has changed vastly, but 40 years into its operations, sustaining the business well for the next few generations is of utmost importance to him. “In this organisation, we don’t speak so much about how big we want sales to be or what we want our number of store counts to grow to because we are focused on qualitative growth.”
Having been in this industry for the past 20 years, he said that the biggest factor that has shaken the industry is the onset of digitalisation, as it has changed the demand equation of timepieces in the retail sector. Propelled by this thought, Tay and his co-group managing director, Kenny Chan, took it upon themselves to restructure the company by updating the business infrastructure to suit today’s evolving digital climate. From equipping sales staff with mobile devices to capture and refer to large realms of data, to more efficient ways of communicating internally, the past two-and-a-half years have been a moment of big change for the luxury watch retailer.
Despite the rapid growth of e-commerce platforms in the luxury sector, Tay’s views towards the physical experience encountered in stores still remains. “Digital touchpoints are important, but I’m not a big believer in e-commerce,” noted Tay, who then referenced a recent study conducted by American management consultancy, Bain and Co. “While most young luxury buyers will do research online, a majority of them would still prefer to acquire timepieces offline—that’s how we are going to combat e-commerce, by improving the customer experience and boutique environment that we create in stores.”
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