Swiss Watch Exports Decline in April as Sector Slump Deepens

  • Shipments plunge 11% last month after 16% drop in March
  • Italy, France and Germany all suffer double-digit falloffs

Swiss watch exports suffered a second monthly double-digit decline as the industry’s slowdown widened well beyond Hong Kong to ensnare Europe, signaling tough times ahead for companies like Swatch Group AG and Cartier-maker Richemont.

Shipments fell 11 percent in April, and they declined 15 percent adjusted for working days, Switzerland’s customs office said in a statement Tuesday. Exports have fallen for the past 10 months and the drop was 16 percent in March. Exports to Hong Kong -- the world’s biggest market for Swiss timepieces -- fell for the fifteenth straight month, while shipments were also down by more than 10 percent in Italy, Germany and France.

“Richemont and the luxury watch goods industry look to be in a storm,” wrote Andreas von Arx, an analyst at Helvea AG.

Makers of high-end timepieces are struggling as demand declines across all the industry’s main markets -- even in Japan, which had enjoyed gains in recent months. Richemont, the world’s No. 2 watchmaker, last week forecast a challenging period ahead and is eliminating almost 100 jobs after April sales plunged 18 percent. Its stock has lost a third of its value in the past year and was down 1.1 percent to 56.25 francs at 10:20 a.m. in Zurich.

The decline in April was fueled by a drop in timepieces with wholesale prices of 3,000 francs ($3,030) and up, the Federation of the Swiss Watch Industry said. Swatch shares were little changed, as mid-range watches that it specializes in were one of the few sectors to register growth last month. Another bright spot was the U.K., where exports rose 3.7 percent.

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