Friday, December 11, 2015

The Island of Misfit Toys

Phil DeVoss
I am ill-equipt in the philosophies of failure.

This is one of my all-time favorite Alec Baldwin quotes, and it comes from the film Elizabethtown.
The character Phil DeVoss is not so subtly based on fellow University of Oregon Alum and Nike founder Phil Knight.  Essentially, someone who has been wildly successful through dint of hard work, more than a bit of good luck, and perhaps some questionable moral choices when business and making money have run head first into doing the right thing.  And the other marked similarity is the refusal to recognize that despite the popularity of the expression, failure is, in fact, a very real option.

So what does this have to do with anything watch related?  More than you might imagine.  Yes, it's Christmas.  And if last week's New York Times was anything to go on the "big dogs" are pumping every last penny they have into a last gasp effort to try and recover some small portion of lost sales.  Unfortunately it is a bit late to try and reverse 11 months of shitty sales.  

Although it has been attributed to several illustrious people, it rings true and seems to be a business model for the high end watch industry -

Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.

A very big brand opened a new boutique recently just down the road with a glittering, star-studded event.  I suspect that my invite must have been lost in the mail ; )  

What was fascinating about this was the incredible amount of money (and watches) it must have required to lure movie stars, athletes and other luminaries.  Not to mention shipping the CEO and other loyalists.  Last but not least the bar bill.

Now on the one hand you could say that it's their brand, their money and that clearly business must be good.  But the word around the campfire per several independent retail partners and the people who tend to track these things is that in fact sales are not so great for even the big dogs.  It's a wee bit like the Emperor's New Clothes.  

At a time where sales are not just flat, but in fact dipping, people are being laid off, stocks of unsold watches are swelling -  is this really the time for this sort of excess?

When you are used to seemingly effortless success the sudden disappearance of it can be hard to take.  And as is becoming more and more clear, watches being made right now are more and more being consigned to the horological equivalent of the Island of Misfit Toys.

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