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TOY WATCH, THE ITALIAN WATCHES WORN BY AMERICAN VIPS
Toy Watch was founded in 2005, and has been operational on a commercial level since mid 2006. Less than two years later their watches are being sold the world over, known and valued by North American, European and Asian consumers.
We ask CEO Sandro Gibillaro how this rapid and, in some senses, surprising success came about.
Effectively, our growth has been exponential. It’s not easy to sum up in a couple of points the mix of factors which allowed our brand to get a hold, but I would say there were two key concepts: the original idea of a new product, which if presented in the right way catches the attention, and an efficient product placement policy, which paradoxically enabled us to become an important brand in the United States before Italy or Europe.
How did you win over American consumers?
We got VIP jet set personalities such as Madonna, Leonardo Di Caprio, Michael Jordan and anchorwoman Oprah Winfrey involved. All thanks to our American PR, who enabled Toy Watch to reach personalities who would have been difficult to get close to for new players. The results were incredible: Toy Watch products were presented during an Oprah Winfrey show in the run up to Christmas 2007. We recorded a rise in contacts for our site only minutes after the first images appeared on television, while the program was still on air. By 20 December the American retailers, who had been well stocked, had completely sold out of our watches.
Now that your brand is well known, what position are you aiming at?
Speaking without arrogance, but with confidence in the quality of our products, we aim to position the product we offer at a very high level, favouring the fashion channel. In order to consolidate our target, we have adopted an exclusive distribution strategy, using only exclusive retailers. For example? In New York our watches are distributed by Saks on Fifth Avenue, and in London by Harrods and Selfridges.
Having told us who your retailers are, could you tell us a bit about the product? In your view, are Toy Watch products designed to meet a short or long-term need?
We sell fashion accessories, not timepieces. Toy Watch is perceived as a luxury brand. Accessible luxury, though – although our original sales point is in Via Montenapoleone in Milan, the consumer can buy one of our watches for an average of 200-300 Euros. Within the reach of most pockets, I should think.
As long as you’re ready to repeat the purchase, perhaps…
Absolutely. A fashion accessory is by nature not a unique object, the only watch that a traditional consumer would always wear. I’ll use an anecdote to illustrate how we differ to a traditional watch brand. In our shop in Via Montenapoleone, it often happens that when a client is faced with a choice of five watches from the latest collection, after having hesitated for a few minutes, they end up buying them all. After all, five different colours go with five different outfits, from sporting to elegant. Just like a pair of sunglasses or a handbag.
So your clients are “serial”?
Absolutely. Someone who chooses a Toy Watch already has at least two or three watches, and maybe even five or ten prestigious brand watches in the safe, which however they don’t wear every day. We meet a watch-lovers’ need to have an easier, friendlier and less austere relationship with a watch, something more versatile and which can be changed frequently. There is not much difference between men and women in this respect: our clients are from across the board, and from a wide age range, from 20-25 to 65.
Is part of your success also due to your capacity to “provoke” with intelligence in the materials you use?
Certainly. The material which is in our DNA, that sets us apart is polycarbonate, an ultramodern material which can be easily combined, in a provocative manner in the watch with other traditional “ingredients” such as steel, ceramics, mother of pearl, and inserts in hard or precious stones, or crystal. Our philosophy is to recreate forms and styles already present on the market using irony and levity. Our ambition is always to amaze: the latest collection, “Fluo”, has brought a genuine breath of fresh air and colour, with a choice of purple, fuchsia, sunshine yellow, acid green, electric blue and brilliant orange watches. We have outdone even the most positive expectations, selling more than three times the original estimates. Now there are more than 25 or 30 thousand watches on the market.
So, moving on to numbers. What is your turnover, and which are your main foreign outlet markets?
As already mentioned, we took our first steps in 2006. At the end of the year we had a turnover of 300 thousand Euros, which became 6.6 million Euros in 2007 and should increase to around 9-9.5 million as at 31 December 2008. Italy, including the activity of the three shops in Milan, Porto Cervo and Rome, is worth 20%. Therefore our international position is very strong, with exports divided among the United States (35%), Asia (20%), Europe (20%) and the rest of the world (5%). In the future we expect an important growth in the Middle Eastern market, where we are sowing now and from which we will expect results from 2009. Soon new directly managed shops will open in London, before Christmas, and in Paris, at the latest by mid next year.
I imagine that your distribution strategy is not exclusively carried out via directly managed shops. Which distribution channels do you use in the various foreign markets?
Even though our natural evolution went via jewellers, this step has been planned at an intentionally measured pace. For the moment we favour the link to the fashion concept, with a presence in selected multibrand sales points in mature markets, or via distribution agreements with local commercial partners who sell our products as one-brand franchisers, shop-in-shops and corners in department stores. We have numerous foreign franchising: from Istanbul and Kuwait City to Hong Kong, Macao, Bangkok and Kuala Lumpur. In six weeks’ time we will be opening another in Jakarta, which will be followed by another sales point in Lebanon.