Watches of Switzerland website with logo
Rolex-to-TAG Heuer retailer has reiterated guidance for 2024 / Image source: Adobe
  • Rolex seller’s sales up a quarter last year
  • CEO insists luxury watch demand ‘remains strong’
  • Relief as 2024 guidance reiterated

2023 has proved a testing time for investors in Watches of Switzerland (WOSG), shares in the UK’s largest luxury watch seller weakening on worries over slowing growth and the resilience of the luxury goods market.

However, shares in the high-end timepieces-to-jewellery retailer rallied 11.5% to 715.5p on Thursday after it reported a healthy rise in annual sales and profits and issued a confident outlook for the new financial year supported by good visibility of supply from key brands.

While the macroeconomic backdrop is tough, CEO Brian Duffy insisted luxury watch demand ‘remains strong’ and continues to outpace supply.

Encouragingly, the TAG Heuer-to-Audemars Piguet purveyor’s client registration lists are extending and average selling prices are rising thanks to a well-heeled clientele which seems to be insulated from cost-of-living pressures.

PROFITS TICK HIGHER

Watches of Switzerland’s results for the year to 30 April 2023 revealed record sales and pre-tax profits, up 25% to £1.54 billion and 23% to £155 million respectively, while free cash flow increased by £33.7 million to £145.8 million.

In the UK and Europe, the FTSE 250 luxury goods group’s sales grew by 10% to £890 million, while US sales shot up 53% to £653 million.

Luxury watch sales were up 28% year-on-year thanks to a combination of price increases and volume growth, though luxury jewellery sales growth was a more modest 10% due to the tougher economic climate and Watches of Switzerland’s focus on full price sales.

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2024 GUIDANCE REITERATED

Duffy said Watches of Switzerland has been busy expanding its international network of showrooms, adding a total of 28 across the UK, US and Europe, whilst also upgrading a further 13 showrooms, including the rollout of its Goldsmiths Luxury format.

And there was relief from investors fretting over a potential downgrade as Watches of Switzerland reiterated guidance for full year 2024, displaying confidence in its organic growth prospects while it actively scouts for further acquisitions in a fragmented market.

Despite the gloomy economic backdrop, Watches of Switzerland is guiding to revenue of between £1.65 billion to £1.7 billion this year, representing constant currency growth of between 8% and 11%, and expects its adjusted earnings before interest and tax margin to be in line with last year’s 10.7%.

‘We enter full year 2024 significantly ahead of where we expected to be when we presented our Long Range Plan in 2021,’ explained Duffy, ‘and we look forward to presenting our Long Range Plan update, which will outline our growth ambitions beyond full year 2026 to full year 2028, in Autumn this year.’

THE EXPERT’S VIEW

AJ Bell head of financial analysis, Danni Hewson, pointed out there have been cracks elsewhere in the luxury goods sector, such as falling diamond prices. ‘And Watches of Switzerland even reported a “more challenging trading environment” in May, which naturally pulled extended earlier share price losses as investors pondered if the luxury goods boom had passed its peak.’

Hewson added: ‘Therefore, today’s announcement that everything is still going swimmingly has caught investors by surprise, hence the 11% share price jump. More people are getting on the company’s list to buy watches, average selling prices are moving higher, and expansion plans are going well, putting Watches of Switzerland ahead of its long-range plan.

‘Despite the uncertain economic backdrop, the fact Watches of Switzerland hasn’t downgraded its guidance has been taken as a massive positive in the eyes of investors.’

Disclaimer: Financial services company AJ Bell referenced in the article owns Shares magazine. The author of the article (James Crux) and the editor of the article (Martin Gamble) own shares in AJ Bell.

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Issue Date: 13 Jul 2023