Friday, May 13, 2016


Word reached the North Shore a few days ago that things were not so rosy for Vaucher Manufacture Fleurier, with yet another round of layoffs on the horizon, apparently the plan is to further eviscerate the staff levels so that when the dust settles after this latest round, the head-count will be down by at least 50.

Now the knee-jerk response would be that they are not exactly a "brand" in and of themselves.  That would be a short-sighted and foolhardy analysis.  They are, for lack of a better analogy, yet another canary in the coal mine that will probably not be listened to as the toxic fumes continue to fan out at the base and work their way to the surface through the tunnels.  

When a high end movement manufacture is seeing a dramatic drop in orders, it is safe to say that they are not the only ones.  It is therefore also reasonable to assume that the smaller movement manufacturers that provide so-called "in house" movements are also feeling the pinch.  These cuts and downsizings are not exactly blindsiding the top dogs at the various big-boy brands, but many of us find it fascinating that the people with the power to see the change in currents seem either unwilling, or unable to steer their ships to safer harbors.  

Ultimately, it is all about pain.  How much pain can a CEO or Board or Brand Manager stand until they decide that the only reasonable solution to make the pain stop is to change their behavior?  Clearly for some brands, they think that the current pain that they are in is just a temporary downturn, that this is some weird aberration.  They are clearly not in enough pain yet.  This is the only way to explain continuing to throw money at yachts (Ulysse Nardin), polo, pro athletes and DJs (Tag Heuer) in the hope that something is going to resonate.  

But these challenges are more than just marketing related.  They also have to do with lifestyle.  And this is very much a case of the lifestyle of the CEO, the Director of Sales, the Brand Manager, etc.   Do you REALLY need to pay your brand manager a six figure base salary, provide business class travel, multi-hundred dollar per diems when in fact the results are in the negative?  In what universe does it make sense to have a base rate of pay for upper management at such a high level when they continue to demonstrate that they are unable or unwilling to make changes, manage markets and adapt in a timely manner?   Because ultimately, if they finally do get shown the door, they will find their way to another brand.  My favorite explanation from a brand manager explaining the hiring of a notoriously flawed sales rep was - "Well I think she/he's just had some bad luck".  A ten year string of bad luck makes Biff Loman look like Ron Popeil by comparison.

Simply put, coffee is for closers.

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