Window Display: New Visual Merchandising

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Formed in 1983, watchmaker Swatch was the product of a previous economic downturn. It is painfully ironic, then, that the current recession is causing it such woes.

To most consumers, the name is associated with cheap, gaudy plastic watches that were the height of fashion in the 80s. However, the company is one of the biggest watch manufacturers in the world, also owning high-end brands such as Omega and Breguet.

Although Swatch appeared only in the 80s, its foundations extend further than the era of synthpop and Fame. Related articles
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In the 70s, the Swiss watch industry was facing heavy competition from cheaply made Asian quartz watches. This forced SSIH and ASUAG - two long-established watchmakers - to go into administration at the beginning of the 80s. They agreed a merger and, from these ashes, Swatch, with its bold design and cheaper engineering, was born. These mass-market timepieces proved to be a lifesaver for the industry.

While high-end brands have generally weathered the recession better than most, the bottom seems to have fallen out of the market for luxury watches since last autumn, with Swatch reporting that sales have dropped between 10% and 14% in the past two months.

So, aside from hoping for an 80s revival that allows its cheaper watches to prop up its more expensive brands, what can Swatch do to regain its success? We asked Shaun Moran, creative director of LIDA, which works for Signet and Ernest Jones, and Richard Exon, chief executive of RKCR/Y&R, which handles the Seiko account.

SHAUN MORAN, Creative Director, LIDA

Swatch's uber-luxe brands have fallen into the tempting trap of positioning as 'accessible luxury' in the face of the recession. The minute a high-end luxury brand does this, its target market - the super-rich - looks...
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