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“Crisis always brings opportunity”

“Crisis always brings opportunity”

Friday, 30 January 2009
By Florence Noël
Florence Noël

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3 min read

Bernard Fornas, CEO of Cartier, believes creativity is the key to snapping up new market share.

After adjusting production to the demands of the current economic climate – 160 people in Villars-sur-Glâne were recently put on short-time – Cartier seems unruffled by what promise to be difficult years ahead for the watch sector. Initial feedback from this year’s SIHH seems to justify the brand’s quiet optimism. An interview with CEO Bernard Fornas.

How are you feeling after this year's SIHH?

(Laughs) Well to borrow a Swiss expression, I’m pleasantly disappointed! There is a crisis, why deny it, but we’re coping rather well.

Even though retailers have been particularly cautious this year?

Some zones more than others, yes. The United States and Asia have tended to hang back. Middle Eastern customers, meanwhile, have taken a heterogeneous approach. We came to Geneva feeling quietly confident. After all, we’ve seen other crises come and go.

So you were well prepared?

With 300 boutiques worldwide and very personalised contacts with our customers, we could see which way the wind was blowing! We predicted today’s “wait and see” attitude and were quick to respond. The ability to act fast and be flexible are two of Cartier’s strengths.

Did these measures include a new price policy?

We adjusted our price policy last November in Japan, but only in response to the appreciation of the yen. This had nothing to do with economic crisis. While we have introduced short-time employment to stem the current slowdown, this hasn’t affected our main site in La Chaux-de-Fonds. The last thing to do in times of crisis is to undermine production resources.

Cartier unveiled a good many new models at this year's SIHH. Is this wise in the current climate?

I’d say it’s essential! Crisis always brings opportunity. Cartier is renowned for its creativity, while customers are turning to names they know and trust. Cartier has a reputation as the “King of Jewellers.” Customers feel reassured by the quality and inventiveness of our products, and the success of this year’s collections are the proof.

Some say the crisis will ultimately be a blessing for the industry. What's your view?

I tend to agree. Watchmaking has ridden a wave of euphoria and there have been aberrations along the way. Some brands have moved into segments that are as far removed from watchmaking as it’s possible to be. Others have been lured by the promise of easy gain. When things are going well, a company must close its ears to temptation, defend its image, focus on what it does best and be extremely discriminating should it choose to diversify. Sooner or later there is a price to pay. Some brands will find it too high.

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