Time Is Money

How a watch business keeps on ticking in China

10/10/2013 Barcelona

Jane Fountain

The explosive growth of China’s middle classes has seen demand for luxury goods skyrocket in mainland China. Measured by the nationality of the buyer, China is now the world’s biggest luxury goods market. Eighty percent of those consumers are under the age of 45, and they spend a larger proportion of their income on luxury items than do consumers in other parts of the world.

Based in Shenzhen, north of Hong Kong, in one of China’s Special Economic Zones, Harmony World Watch Center is in the right place with the right products to meet that demand. A high-end chain specializing in the sales and service of world-brand watches, the company has seen massive growth, opening 250 stores across China over the past two decades.

Jane Fountain has lived and breathed Harmony since she began working there as the HR director in 1991. Since taking over as Managing Director in 2001, she has received numerous awards for her marketing theory and management innovation.

"Faced With Difficulties, We Need Not Be Afraid"

Although China has been the Promised Land, the economic slowdown that has affected other parts of the world finally caught up with the Chinese market in 2012. Political changes, a crackdown on corruption and gift-giving, heavy luxury consumption tax and a loss of customers caused by a widening price gap with Europe due to the appreciation of the RMB have all added to the woes of luxury retailers.

However, it’s not all doom and gloom, according to Fountain. In a recent article for her company magazine, she issued a rallying cry to business leaders, urging them to stop bemoaning the state of their markets.

"Why can’t we stop complaining and be more patient and persistent, instead of pursuing quick success and instant benefit? From the historical point of view, ups and downs are common. Faced with difficulties, we need not be afraid. Faced with the future, what we need is to be confident."

It’s obvious to her that great brands aren’t built in a day. Brands need nurturing, love and time. As she tells IESE Prof. Jaume Ribera during a recent stopover in Barcelona as part of the Global CEO Program for China, companies can face the future without fear if they enlist the help of their greatest asset – their people – and devote themselves to learning a little more day by day.

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