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Sat 19 Nov 2011 09:45 AM

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Luxury watch maker eyes GCC retail boutiques

Swiss firm Fortis says it will establish regional HQ in Dubai by the end of the year

Luxury watch maker eyes GCC retail boutiques
Dubai Mall

Swiss premium watchmaker Fortis has announced plans to establish a regional HQ in Dubai by the end of the year, with exclusive boutiques to follow across the region.

In a statement, the luxury watchmaker said opening the office in Dubai Gold and Diamond Park in December "was a reflection of its commitment to the brand's loyal following in the region".

Mahesh Shahani, brand director, Fortis Middle East, said the company will also increase its focus on Arabic models following the success of its B-42 Al Tayar automatic wrist watch launched last year.

He said going forward, Fortis will also be looking at establishing retail boutiques across the region's markets which will "act as a one-stop shop for the brand".

The GCC and the Middle East will be focus markets for Fortis Middle East, he added.

Currently, the UAE and Saudi Arabia continue to rank among the top 15 importers of Swiss watches.

It is estimated that being a regional shopping hub, Dubai alone imports between 800,000 to 1 million premium watches every year.

Shahani said globally the growth in the uptake of luxury watches was in line with the increase in sale of luxury goods worldwide.

China is estimated to be the world's second largest consumer for luxury goods after the US, but the emerging markets of Russia, Brazil and the Middle East also hold great potential, with the latter expected to grow at 10-12 percent a year, Fortis said in a statement.

"Our current and new strategy will be to move more closely and intimately to the market and customers and build on the Fortis image to grow sales. In this context, opening of the Fortis regional HQ will bring an unprecedented advantage," Shahani added.

Fortis was founded in 1912 and is known as the official time keeper for various military aviation squadrons in Europe and other parts of the world.

Fortis has also been part of the official equipment for space missions on board the International Space Station ISS.

In the region, Fortis said it will look at forging close relationships with civil and military establishments after bagging a deal with the Saudi military.

On Tuesday, rating agency Standard & Poor's said retail markets in the Gulf region were helping to drive sales of luxury goods amid the current global economic woes.

It said luxury goods were still selling "very well" in Gulf states, as well as Russia and China, despite the emphasis on austerity in many countries around the world.

Credit analyst Nicolas Baudouin said: "Growth rates in the luxury industry should decelerate somewhat in 2012 from the 2010 and 2011 record figures.

"But we expect them to remain healthy on the back of strong momentum in emerging markets."

Earlier this month, analysts told Arabian Business that luxury buyers in the Middle East have shown no signs of tightening their purse strings despite the looming global economic crisis.

British brand Burberry said in October the Middle East had emerged as one of its strongest markets, helping to boost global sales by 30 percent.

The company opened five regional stores in 2011, as it sought to cushion itself against a possible sales slump in developed markets.

French beauty brand Estee Lauder said in August it expected strong growth to continue in emerging markets such as the Middle East.

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